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Century 21 15 th yr
Century 21 2015- AD
 

2015

Jan 1 In his New Year speech, President Putin said "An atmosphere of kindness, goodwill and generosity warms our hearts." He talked patriotism: "Love for one's Motherland is one of the most powerful and enlightening feelings. It has found its reflection in our fraternal aid to the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol, after they made the firm decision to return to their native home. This event will remain a landmark in national history." He thanked his listeners for "your innermost truthfulness, honour, justice and responsibility for the fate of your country, for your invariable readiness to defend Russia's interests, to be with it both in days of triumph and in times of trial, to strive for the implementation of our bravest and grandest of plans." In his State of the Union speech on December 4, Putin referred to a challenge to Russian patriotism by the West's old policy of containment, adding that "every time when anyone only thinks Russia has become strong, independent, such instruments are applied immediately." He said, "We will never pursue the path of self-isolation, xenophobia, suspicion and search of enemies. All this is manifestation of weakness, while we are strong and self-confident." BBC News reports today that "more than a dozen protesters" have been arrested in central Moscow following their "demonstrating all night against the conviction of prominent opposition leader Alexei Navaln." Today the Moscow Times headlines "Despite oil riches, life in Putin's Russia is hard - and about to get harder." It describes "ordinary Russians" as aware of problems at home but having "a limited grasp of how their country compares to the outside world, or its role internationally."

Jan 1  Happy New Year! In Shanghai, people in a packed crowd celebrating the coming New Year rush to pick up fake money thrown from the balcony of a nightclub. The crush kills 36 and according to BBC News, injures "some 47 others."

Jan 2  Relations between Qatar and the el-Sisi regime in Egypt have been strained. Qatar's ruling family, the House of Thani, funds Al-Jazeera, and three of Al-Jazeera's journalists have been in prison for over a year, sentenced seven to ten-year sentences on charges of publishing false Egyptian news and aiding the Muslim Brotherhood. Britain's The Guardian writes that "Qatar has moved to repair relations with Egypt and its own Gulf neighbors by shutting down a controversial pro-Islamist TV channel that has infuriated the military-backed authorities in Cairo." Al-Jazeera announced on 29 Dec that its affiliate broadcast called Egypt Direct was ceasing broadcast immediately until "conditions are favorable" for it to return to Egypt. The el-Sisi regime is pretending that Egypt's judiciary is independent, widely viewed as a farce. Yesterday Egypt's highest court granted the three journalists - Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Peter Greste, and Baher Mohamed - retrials citing procedural flaws in the original trial. The judge had the power to release all three on bail but didn't, and the verdict could take months.

Jan 5  The 114th Congress convenes under full Republican control for the first time since 2006. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday morning television yesterday gave the country his analysis why the economy hasn't being growing as fast as he thinks it should: government regulations. He said his party's top priority will be easing regulations to boost the economy. McConnell foresees relief in passage of the Keystone oil pipeline and overhauling the Affordable Care Act (Obama care). On December 18 he said "a Republican Senate will redouble efforts to combat the president's war on Coal. And a Republican Senate will have the opportunity to push back on the president's unilateral action of immigration." More economic analysis comes in a comment to the Huffington Post: "The economic crash was a purposeful and treasonous acted of the democrat controlled 110th congress." Someone replies: "Here we go with revisionist right wing chatter. Out of the right wing parallel universe." Someone else tells Democrats to "shut your ugly and immoral pieholes ... Elections have consequences, and you lost." How much Republicans will be able to reason with President Obama and his fellow Democrats remains to be seen. Obama's approval rating, by the way, was 46 percent on the 3rd.

Jan 6  Demonstrations continue in Germany by the movement called Patriotic Europeans Against Islamization of the West (PEGIDA). It began in October in response to street battles in Hamburg between Kurds and Salafists. And there were demonstrations in Dresden by immigrants in support of the Kurd struggling against ISIS. In December, PEGIDA demonstrations grew in size to seven, ten and seventeen thousand, with signs calling for preserving "our culture," against "religious fanaticism" and against "religious wars on German soil." In her New Year message Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized the movement, saying everyone has the right to voice their opinion, but she advised against following those who have called the rallies "because all too often they have prejudice, coldness, even hatred in their hearts." BBC News reports "some 18,000 people" attending an anti-immigration rally in Dresden yesterday, and it writes of "weekly protests" and "counter demonstrations ... with thousands marching in Berlin, Cologne, Dresden and Stuttgart." It adds that a "total of 22,000 anti-Pegida demonstrators rallied in Stuttgart, Muenster and Hamburg." According to the German tabloid Bild, people are saying "no" to xenophobia and "yes" to diversity and tolerance. The demonstrators in Dresden marched in silence, and they avoided triviolizing their demonstration by talking to reporters.

Jan 7  More killing for God and his messenger. In Paris. two men with assault rifles invade the offices of a satirical magazine and murder twelve people, including two police officers. The killers left shouting "Allah Akbar. We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad." The magazine, Charlie Hebdo, reprinted a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad in 2006 that had originally appeared in Danish publication. Recently, Charlie Hebdo tweeted a cartoon of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Jan 8  French police say they know who the killers are: Cherif Kouachi, age 32, and his brother Said Kouachi, age 34, French citizens of Algerian descent. They are on the run in France. Amateur video shows the killers yesterday running toward a wounded policeman as he lay on the pavement and one of the attackers saying, "you wanted to kill me?" Then he shot the officer in the head. Now they have thousands who want them dead, and they are about die or be taken prisoner. Their stupidities produce other stupidities: two Muslim places of worship have been reported as set on fire. Dread has been reported among France's Muslim population. In the US, gun control is attacked, and Richard Greneli, a Fox News contributor, complains that Hillary Clinton wants us to empathize with the killers. In Paris on the other hand, the mood is somber. Come night, lights on the Eiffel Tower weere turned off. The Metro halted for a minute or two. Schools closed across the city. People are identifying with the victims and expressing support for the tradition of freedom of the press. France is having a day of national mourning.

Jan 9  Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders denounce the flogging - 50 lashes - on an independent-minded Saudi blogger, Raef Badawi. They describe Badawi as having exercised his right to freedom of expression. Badawi was convicted in May last year of a "cybercrime" and insulting Islam. He was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail. The flogging, fifty lashes at a time, are to occur weekly. The lashes today were applied just outside a mosque, on this holy day of Friday, with worshippers as an audience, an apparent warning about improper behavior. Yesterday, by the way, Saudi Arabia denounced the murders at the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, calling it a "cowardly terrorist act which Islam as well as other religions reject." Today, surviving members of Charlie Hebdo have vowed to push forward with their next edition, increasing the print run to 1 million copies, well beyond its usual 60,000 copies, in defiance of the gun attack that killed 10 of their colleagues. The old response that we shouldn't offend has not made much of an appearance in the West. Meanwhile Badawi's wife, Ensaf Haidar, has accepted the Scottish Secular Society's annual Aikenhead award on her husband's behalf, and she with Badawi's three children have moved to Canada.

Jan 12  A third attacker in Paris on January 7, Amedy Coulibaly, made a video claiming association with the other two assassins and described his motive, saying: "You attack the Islamic state; we attack you." Coulibaly shot dead a female police officer on the 8th and on the 9th took hostages at a Jewish grocery store, killing four. Like the other two, he is now dead.

Jan 12  Schools are re-opening across Pakistan twenty-seven days after a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar that killed 140. This includes the pupils and teachers of that school returning for the first time since the attack. There will be a ceremony to remember the victims.

Jan 12  The economist Nouriel Roubini, also known as Doctor Doom, expresses doubt that demand for labor will continue to grow with technology. He questions whether service-sector employment will continue to offset job loss resulting from robotics and automation. He notes that "Foxconn, which produces iPhones and other consumer electronics, plans to replace much of its Chinese workforce of more than 1.2 million with robots." Meanwhile a headline at Reuters reads: "Strong job gains in December point to solid year for the U.S. economy."

Jan 12  Croatia elects its first woman president, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, a former foreign minister. It has been described as a shift to the right after a centre-left coalition failed to end six years of economic recession.

Jan 13  Making the news today is a tweet on January 9 by Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News, which read: "Maybe most Moslems [are] peaceful but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible." In Al Jazeera, Tony Karen writes that the suggestion that Muslims are collectively responsible for crimes committed by someone who shares the same faith "has sparked outrage." Mr Karen writes of questions being asked such as whether all Catholics were responsible for the child abuse among the clergy, and a man asking whether his aging Muslim parents in North Carolina should be expected to help destroy terrorist groups.

Jan 13  Yesterday in Dresden the weekly PEGIDA anti-Immigrant rally drew between 25,000 and 40,000 people - considerably higher than the 18,000 who came the previous week. Someone carried a sign showing Chancellor Merkel wearing a headscarf. Banners read, "Stop multiculturalism." "Everyone is too many," Lutz Bachmann, one of the organizers described PEGIDA's demands for a new immigration law, forcing immigrants to integrate (speak German) and prohibiting those who leave Germany to fight with the Islamists are not allowed to return to Germany.

Jan 14  From California, a Mr Holmes has emailed that his wife Angie has been discharged from a hospice and nursing home and today is living again at home. She is doing house and yard work. Early last year she had been given three months to live before Holmes put her on what he called a "starvation" diet. Soon she was walking again without a walker. The hospice, writes Holmes, was amazed by her recovery. Angie's friends described her recovery as a miracle. Norm credits his insistence that she eat quality foods such as fruits and veggies full of anti oxidants. The staff at the nursing home commented on this, he says, "in a positive way."

Jan 14  Today from Yemen a commander of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Nasr al-Ansi, appeared in an 11-minute video posted online and claimed his organization's responsibility for the massacre at Charlie Hebdo in Paris. He described the two brothers who carried out the attack as heroes.

Jan 16  Today's scheduled weekly 50 lashes of flogging for Raif Badawi has been postponed by Saudi authorities on medical grounds. His wounds from last week's beating have not healed sufficiently. According to BBC News "the doctor recommended that the flogging be postponed until next week." Protests against the beatings come from the US, Canada, Britain, Italy, France and elsewhere, from governments and demonstrations in front of Saudi embassies. People had taken the slogan "I am Charlie," referring to the freedom of the press issue regarding the recent assassinations in Paris, and are saying "I am Raif." Some in Saudi Arabia don't see it as a freedom of the press issue. Badawi they claim was irresponsible because he insulted Islam. In Saudi Arabia one does not have the right to reject the Islamic religion. Badawi is accused of apostasy. The Saudi regime proclaims tolerance of various faiths but no freedom for it subjects not to believe or to express disbelief, and some Saudi pundits with a shallow understanding of freedom say in effect that they believe in freedom of expression so long as the ideas expressed are correct according to their view and the view of the authorities. In The Arab News, Aijaz Zaka Syed writes," Being a member of the tribe that earns its living by the pen, I cherish free speech. A journalist and writer is nothing without his freedom-the freedom to speak his mind, freedom to take a stand and speak truth to power." Then he accuses the people at Charlie of "provoking" people, suggesting that they should have censored themselves so as not to provoke animosity. In his article Syed says nothing about the benefits of tolerating or ignoring insults - better at least than murdering or whipping the one considered to have done the insulting.

Jan 18  The Arab News, published in Saudi Arabia, complains that "offensive cartoons serve the interests of extremists." It writes that "The Council of Senior Scholars have slammed publications continuing to publish blasphemous cartoons saying it does not constitute freedom of expression but rather a form of hate speech." Angry Muslim demonstrators have taken to the streets in parts of the world. Yesterday the President of Niger described at least ten people having been killed in church fires and violent clashes in his country. The protests there have been described as including attacks on a French cultural center, several churches and Christian shops. In Pakistan a demonstrator to a television camera spoke of "the double standard of the West" where "speaking of certain things about the holocaust or the power of England is a crime, but when blasphemy is committed against the Prophet Mohammed they say it is freedom of speech." Those who think the demonstrator is inaccurate in his comparison acknowledge that in Britain a lot of speech is illegal, speech that incites criminal acts or likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress or cause a breach of the peace (racist speech targeted at individuals). But they can point to the British scientist Richard Dawkins who ridicules and mocks Christianity without being arrested, and nobody has been imprisoned or sentenced to whippings for advocating that England rid itself of its monarchy and become a republic. Meanwhile, back and forth on the freedom of speech issue remains prominent in the media.

Jan 20  Talking to the News Hour yesterday about al-Qaeda and conflict in Yemen, Abudulwaha Alkebsi of the Center for International Private Enterprise spoke of the conflict in Yemen between Shia and Sunni and the need for economic growth and the creation of jobs. Economic failure he said creates recruitment fodder for one side or the other. "Most of these people are angry young men who have no jobs, who have no future. They find friendship and family within either the Houthi or al-Qaida. We need more jobs in Yemen. And that's the only way it will stop." Regarding trends effecting the economy, according to the World Factbook, Yemen has an annual rate of 6.4 deaths and 36.2 births per 1,000 population, one of the higher population growth rates in the world.

Jan 21  In Yemen today, Houthi rebels tightened their hold on the capital, Sanaa. Yesterday they took control of the presidential palace complex. Their leader, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, accuses the president and other leaders of ignoring the people's interests. The Houthi are Shia and not al-Qaeda.

Jan 21  Authorities in China fire four local officials whom they hold responsible for the thirty-six deaths that occurred in Shanghai when a packed crowd celebrating the coming New Year rushed to pick up fake money thrown from the balcony of a nightclub. Rather than blame people in the crowd, authorities accused the officials of having failed to prevent public risk. BBC News quotes a government accuser: "Preventative and response preparation was sorely lacking, early warnings on the night were weak, and the response measures were not suitable."

Jan 22  In Australia the indigenous Barngarla people win their nearly 20-year campaign for rights to their traditional land, 44,481 square kilometers, along the north-western shore of the Spencer Gulf in South Australia. According to BBC News, "groups such as mining companies must now negotiate with the Barngarla over proposed developments."

Jan 23  Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, defacto ruler since 1995 and king since 2005, died yesterday after several weeks of pneumonia. He is succeeded by his half-brother, King Salman, 78, who has proclaimed on state TV: "We will continue, God willing, to hold the straight course this country has followed since its establishment by the late King Abdullaziz [who reigned from 1932 to 1953]." BBC News notes King Abduallah's, "massive security clampdown in 2003 following the first of a series of militant attacks in Saudi Arabia. The attacks were believed to have been caused by Islamist groups angered at the country's pro-Western stance and Abdullah vowed to quash terrorism in Saudi Arabia." BBC News adds: "At home he was seen as a reformer, albeit a slow and steady one, allowing mild criticism of the government in the press, and hinting that more women should be allowed to work."

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra


Jan 23  Yemen's president and prime minister, who were allied with the US, have quit. Houthi rebels rule the capital. They are Shia said to be sponsored by Iran. Saudi Arabia announces withdrawal of its aid to Yemen. Pundits are saying that the Saudis are not likely to tolerate an Iranian backed power on their southern (1,000 mile) border. Yemen's army has been described as "melted away" while "Sunni tribes, encouraged by al-Qaeda," according to BBC News, have been "busy mobilizing to confront the Houthis."

Jan 24  Another assault on democracy is delivered by the military regime in Thailand. The former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had been democratically elected but forced from office by Thailand's military. Yesterday she was banned from politics for five years and a phony charge was leveled against her that could put her in jail for ten years. Shinawatra was to hold a news conference at a Bangkok hotel but troops arrived and prevented her from speaking. According to BBC News, she and her brother, another former popularly elected prime minister, "remain hugely popular among Thailand's rural poor but are hated by the urban and middle-class elite."

Jan 26  Russian separatists in Ukraine have launched an offensive. France and Britain condemn the separatist attacks in the Black Sea port of Mariupol that killed at least 30 "innocent civilians, including children, and wounding many others." President Obama blames Moscow and says the US would work with its European partners to "ratchet up the pressure on Russia." Germany's Chancellor Merkel has phoned Putin asking him to "put pressure" on Ukraine's pro-Kremlin separatists to end the upsurge in violence. The Kremlin in Moscow blames Kiev and warns that increased economic pressure on Moscow would be "absolutely destructive" blackmail. Also, today the Moscow Times headlines, "Soaring Inflation Hits Grocers as Russians Cut Food Budgets."
Jan 26  The Washington Post describes a growing "terror threat" to Saudi Arabia." It reports that Saudi officials have "made it illegal for imams in the country's 85,000 mosques to give sermons sympathizing with religious extremists." The Post quotes an official who says, "We are also educating the imams to tell people that what ISIS is saying is against Islam... They represent violence. We represent the real Islam."

Jan 27  President Putin yesterday gave students in Russia his version of the conflict in Ukraine. According to the Russian news agency TASS he called the Ukrainian army "a NATO legion." He describes Ukraine's military as not pursuing "the goal of defending Ukraine's national interests. It has quite different goals - geopolitical containing of Russia, which is absolutely inconsistent with the national interests of the Ukrainian people." NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says Putin is talking nonsense and he calls on Russia to stop supporting the pro-Russian rebels in the Ukraine militarily. Standard and Poors cuts Russia's credit rating to "junk." EU leaders direct their foreign ministers to consider further sanctions on Russia. Meanwhile, Russia finds comfort in its tie with Iran, to whom it sells military equipment and other stuff. Iran's Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan speaks of the need for cooperation between Russia and Iran against interference by "non-regional forces in regional affairs." He says, according to the Moscow Timesthat all problems are the result of the "destructive US policy of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries." Iran and Russia have long been on the same page also regarding the conflict in Syria.

Jan 28  Putin is described in the Guardian as a criminal who "presides over a mafia regime and who personally authorised the sensational murder eight years ago of the former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko." The Guardian was reporting a statement made in Britain's High Court by the Queen's Council (QC) acting for Litvinenko's widow, Marina. Litvinenko was an agent with Russia's Federal Protective Service and with others had accused his superiors of ordering the assassination of the Russian tycoon and oligarch Boris Berezovsky. He fled with his family to London and was granted asylum in the United Kingdom where he worked as a journalist, writer and consultant for the British intelligence services. A British murder investigation pointed to Andrey Lugovoy, a member of Russia's Federal Protective Service, as the prime suspect in Litvinenko's murder.

Jan 29  In legislative elections four days ago in Greece, the left-wing political coalition SYRIZA won 36.3 percent of the popular vote and 149 seats in the 300-seats parliament, defeating the coalition of parties that had been governing the country. SYRIZA's leader and Greece's new prime minister is Alexis Tsipras, age 40, a former member of the Communist Youth of Greece who remains friendly toward the variety of people of the Left in Greece, including Social Democrats. He was an exceptional student who has done postgraduate studies in Urban and Regional Planning. In May 2014, in a speech in Berlin, he spoke against what has been called the "Merkel-dominated neo-liberal political course in Europe." He came to power in a coalition with the conservative-populist Independent Greeks party, also anti-establishment, which had won 13 seats in parliament. Prime Minister Tsipras has been talking of restructuring the Greek debt with the EU and the IMF. At his first cabinet meeting he said, according to BBC News: "We won't get into a mutually destructive clash but we will not continue a policy of subjection." Meanwhile Germany's vice-chancellor says it is unfair of Greece to expect other states to pick up its bills. Greece's debt has been described as having origins in non-payment of taxes.

February 2015

 
Feb 2  Reuters news service reports that for his 2016 budget, unveiled today, President Obama will close a loophole that allows US corporations to pay no taxes on profits from overseas earnings. Today, corporations do not have to pay taxes on such earnings if the money is not transferred to the US. The billions gained from this change, according to the White House, as described by Reuters, would "fund repairs and improvements to roads, bridges, transit systems and freight networks that would replenish the Highway Trust Fund." Yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press" Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said, "What I think the president is trying to do here is to, again, exploit envy economics."

Feb 2  The US had its big party yesterday - a fun time for millions watching the Superbowl on television. A record for TV viewing was set. Tickets for watching in the stadium are said to have gone for something like $10,000 per seat. Paul McCartney and John Travolta were there. TV commercials were a part of the attraction. And there was the half-time show headlined by Katy Perry screaming declarations while riding a giant electronic tiger, with lots of electronic flash and heavy metal sound. The game came to a close with the Seattle Sea Hawks on the verge of scoring to win. They had three tries to advance one yard to the goal line for six points, but they risked the one thing could lose the game for them: their quarterback through the ball into a crowd of players and the pass was intercepted by a player for the New England Patriots. The Patriots let the clock run out and the game was over. The Patriots won 28 to 24. There was a lot of cheer and a minor brawl among the players. Although it broke a television viewing record about half of television viewers were watching something else and many more were spending yesterday without watching television. Puritans opposed to the fun were difficult to find in the media this morning, but there was the comment of one young man who claimed that the game created great memories for him.

Feb 3  Measles is a highly contagious airborne disease, a viral infection of the respiratory system, immune system, and skin. It resulted in about 96,000 deaths in 2013, down from 545,000 deaths in 1990. An outbreak of measles started in mid-December when at least 40 people who had visited or worked at Disneyland in California contracted the disease, and it has spread to at least six other states. Disease control people are calling for vaccinating children. In 1835 in Britain vaccination was made mandatory for the sake of the entire community. The issue of freedom to reject being vaccinated is still with us. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has spoken against mandatory vaccination, saying that parents should have some choice. CNN News says, "The straight talking governor is suddenly mealy-mouthed over measles." Senator Rand Paul, also viewed as a presidential candidate, says of vaccinations, "most of them should be voluntary." President Obama is also talking about vaccinations, without saying whether they should be mandatary. He says: "There is every reason to get vaccinated - there aren't reasons to not... The fact is that a major success of our civilization is our ability to prevent disease that in the past have devastated folks. And measles is preventable." A poll taken in 2014 by the Pew Research Center describes 68% of Americans for and 30% against children being required to get vaccinations.

 
Feb 4  In Britain, scientists can now replace the faulty embryo nucleus of one woman with a healthy nucleus from another woman - the DNA of the two women allowing a male and female couple to have a healthy child. BBC News describes this as a three-person baby and as stopping a genetic disease being passed from mother to child. Parliament has voted its approval, 382 for and 128 against. Arguments against leaned toward fear of a slippery slope to the unknown.

Feb 5  Observations with the Planct telescope have led to the conclusion that radiation erupted into stars 140 million years earlier than previously estimated - discussed today by BBC News in its Sci/Environment section. This is about the uninverse visible to we humans. We know of time as matter and motion, and Big Bang empiricism gives us nothing definite about our universe having been created out of nothing.

Feb 5  Speaking to Germany's finance minister about solving Greece's economic crisis, Greece's finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, describes his government as needing technical help and moral and financial support from the rest of the EU to fight against corruption and tax evasion. He said the we "need Germany on our side."

Feb 9  A failure in strategy by ISIS was discussed on yesterday's Sunday morning talk show on CNN - Zakaria's GPS. Fawaz Gerges, a Mid-East scholar, said that "ISIS is strangling itself. ISIS is pitting itself against the Muslim mainstream, Muslim public opinion and Arab public opinion. There is really shock and outrage throughout the Arab and Muslim world. I would argue that ISIS is digging its own grave." Lately ISIS was described as burning the Jordanian pilot alive in a cage for its shock value, to demonstrate effective power and win new recruits. ISIS mentality is authoritarian, and they make opponents by ignoring appeals to hearts and minds, for some a strategy of weakness. ISIS appeared to be winning some Jordanians into wanting Jordan to withdraw from the anti-ISIS coalition, but after burning the pilot the Jordanians swung behind their king and a greater determination to fight ISIS. ISIS is a little like the authoritarian military men in Russia fighting the Bolsheviks. These tough old anti-Bolsheviks were abusive toward the peasants they should have been trying to win to their side, and they pushed peasants to the side of the Bolsheviks.

Feb 9  Yesterday on Fox News Sunday, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn (retired) joined those who are criticizing President Obama for not having a comprehensive strategy in dealing with the global threat from Jihadist terror organizations. He said "... the strategy that we've had is not - is not working. I mean, it's clearly not working. Just look at the kinds of things we're facing." His alternative was unclear - a one fits all by-the-book response for every nation and challenge? Or should we rely instead on flexibility geared to specifics coordinated with local allies? A clip was shown of Senator McCain saying, "Let there be no doubt, we still do not have a viable strategy to counter ISIL, and if you are not winning in war, you are losing." How about if you are not winning a war against self-destructive fools, be patient and stay in there? Elsewhere, Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer was saying, "Yes, it's not World War II. It's the '30s, it's not the '40s," an analogy suggesting that we are being weak like those in the 1930s who gave Hitler his path to success in war. And finally yesterday there was the opportunitically strident Fox News commentator Judge Jeanine. She complains that Obama is too soft on terrorism. Don't think about the drone strikes. She said that it has finally come together for her, that she has finally realized that President Obama is "comfortable with extremism ... he's okay with it."

Feb 10  Bashar al-Assad of Syria tells Jeremy Bowen of BBC News that he is not opposed to co-operating with other countries regarding the fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS), but that he will not talk with US officials, "because they don't talk to anyone, unless he's a puppet." Regarding the United States training and equipping a "moderate" rebel force to fight IS militants, Assad describes this as a "pipe-dream" because there are no moderate fighters in Syria opposed to his regime. He sees his side as the reasonable party and denies using weapons that kill indiscriminately, like barrel bombs. He tells Bowen: "I know about the army. They use bullets, missiles and bombs. I haven't heard of the army using barrels, or maybe, cooking pots." Bowen reports that "President Bashar al-Assad looks remarkably relaxed for a man who has been at the centre of the catastrophe that has hit Syria in the last four years. He is extremely polite, and smiles quite a lot."

Feb 13  President Obama predicts that the Islamic State "will lose." And he is asking for authorization from Congress for hit and run boots on the ground - limited operations rather than a prolonged ground war - to help produce that outcome. He says, "I'm convinced that the United States should not get dragged back into another prolonged ground war." He speaks of the air strikes against IS engaged in by the US in a coalition with other nations as having put the Islamic State on the defensive.

Feb 16  Islamic State warriors in Libya have beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians - more of their effort at winning friends and influencing people. Al Jazeera reports "ISIL camps, graining sites and weapons storage areas" in Libya, across Egypt's border, "where armed groups have thrived amid chaos." The Christians had been seized from the coastal town of Sirte in eastern Libya. A video by the Islamic State warriors emerged yesterday showing them forcing a group of men to the ground and decapitating them. Today, Egypt's President Sisi condemned the "inhuman criminal killers" and announced that his country's air force has bombed Islamic State positions in Libya. Meanwhile, Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle East studies at The London School of Economics, has described ISIL (or ISIS) as self-destructing.

Feb 16  In Pakistan, angry cricket fans carried TV sets into streets and smashed them, demonstrating their anger following the Pakistani team losing to India's team in a World Cup match played in Saudi Arabia.

Feb 17  Greece's new Leftist government is holding to its campaign promise of rejecting the EU's austerity recovery program. Other members of the Eurozone, especially Germany, are not cooperating regarding Greece paying its debt to investors (bonds holders). Greece's government is about to run out of money with which to function for its citizens and needs loans, and those loans are not forthcoming from within Greek society. Greece has not set itself up to pay its way with revenues collected from within its own borders. BBC News describes two opinon polls last week that indicate that 79 percent of Greeks support the government's policies. The BBC describes Greece as burdened by a debt of 323 billion Euros, 60 percent of this owed to private Eurozone lenders, 10 percent to the International Monetary Fund, 6 percent to the European Central Bank and 3 percent to Greek banks. Japan is burdened by a huge debt also, but it's largely to its own citizens.

Feb 18  According to the New York Times, Libya has had "no effective government" since Qaddafi was overthrown in October 2011. Libya is "a patchwork of fiefs controlled by local or ideological militias." A group of moderate and extremist Islamists called Libya Dawn controls the capital, Tripoli. Libya Dawn is at war with another group called Operation Dignity and includes former Qaddafi soldiers and military equipment. Egypt's President al-Sisi is calling for a coalition of nations to intervene in Libya to rid it of extremists, which he says are a threat to Egypt. Sisi's airstrikes two days ago in Libya near the border with Egypt have drawn "harsh criticism" from Omar al-Hassi, the militia-supported "prime minister" in Tripoli. Despite Libya's divisions, Sisi wants the new intervention to have the consent of the country's people and government. Asked if he would strike again in Libya he said: "We need to do it again, all of us together."

Feb 19  Yesterday on television there were attempts to explain young people joining the Islamic State movement. The most succinct came from Mike Morrell, former Deputy Director of the CIA, on the Charlie Rose show. His key word was "purpose." Young men who have been leading aimless dissolute lives are introduced to Islam and the creation of a new world order. It gives them a purpose. It's an appeal that depends on the success of the movement, and recently the Islam State has been a success. Morrell's comments aside, as the sensation and newness of the movement wear off, its ability to recruit will fade. Long range, the movement's success depends on the mechanics of hearts-and-minds and defense against its powerful enemies. The Islamic State, out of tune with modernity, will become a failed movement while people in general continue with the purpose of making a living, educational opportunities for their children and maybe a little fun. Movements come and go and life goes on.

Feb 21  Victor Yanukovich, former Ukraine president who fled to Russia is reported by the Moscow Times as saying, "God has left me alive, so it looks like I'm needed for something ... As soon as there is a possibility for me to return, I will return and will do everything I can to make life better in Ukraine." Also today, from the West come reports of continued military support for the Russian rebels in the Ukraine. The ceasefire that was suppose to start six-days ago has not yet taken hold. Secretary of State John Kerry has accused Putin's Russia of "craven behavior." British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said "additional sanctions" were on the agenda and that "Russia has engaged in an absolutely brazen and cynical process over these last days."

Feb 22  Young Muslims in Norway yesterday circled the Oslo Synagogue to show their support for Jews. It was called a "Ring of Peace" and was joined by 1,500 others. Its organizers said that they wanted to show that they strongly reject anti-Semitism.

Feb 22  To win a four-month extension on debt repayment, Greece's government announces that it will crackdown on tax evasion - a major element in the origins of its economic trouble. It said also that it was compiling a list of measures to make the Greek civil service more effective.

Feb 23  On CNN's Sunday talk show the discussion was about associating "Islamic State" terrorists with Islam. Some people dislike President Obama's remark that "We are not at war with Islam," and they accuse him of playing politics by turning a blind eye to the ideology of Islam. An academic, Bernard Haykel, was described as joining the criticism and quoted as saying, "It's this Islam is a religion of peace mantra." The CNN moderator and pundit Fareed Zakaria commented: "There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and perhaps 30,000 members of ISIS [the Islamic State], and yet Haykel feels that it is what 0.0019 percent of what Muslims do that defines the religion." One of the guests, Peter Beinhart, mentioned that we didn't declare war on fascist Spain during World War II and in the Cold War we were allied with Communist Yugoslavia and China. In other words, we should "narrow" our target rather than play with big abstractions like fascism, communism, what is Islam, are Italian-Americans or Japanese-Americans loyal citizens. As Beinhart said, "from the point of an American foreign policy we as a nation have done best when we have defined our enemies narrowly." A question for the viewers remained: Why should Obama offend those Muslims who are with us in winning against the Islamic State?

Feb 25  An big showdown offensive targeting the city of Mosul has been announced. It's the largest city controlled by the Islamic State, where Iraqi troops last year dropped their weapons and fled. A half million people left the city in 2014 and more than one million remain, virtually all Sunni Muslims. The force attempting to retake Mosul will be mostly Shia, about 25,000 strong, and some observers have described the US as too optimistic about the ability of the mission to succeed. Success will be the ability to hold the city and keeping it reasonably secure. Meanwhile, last week ISIS blew up Mosul's public library. More than 8,000 rare old books and manuscripts are reported as having been burned.

Feb 26  Yesterday, Amnesty International called for UN reform. It urged an end of the veto by Security Council members in cases of mass atrocities. In a 415-page annual report detailing abuses in 160 countries, the human rights organization described d global responses to conflict from Nigeria to Syria as having been "shameful and ineffective." It claimed the five permanent Security Council members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the US - "consistently abused" their veto rights to "promote their political self-interest or geopolitical interest above the interest of protecting civilians." Russian and Chinese vetoes on the Syrian crisis were described as having given President Bashar al-Assad's regime "a blank check." Calls for such reform also occurred back in September by world leaders addressing the UN General Assembly. Among them were Erdogan of Turkey and Hollande of France.

Feb 27  In Bangladesh a blogger who believed in secularism is hacked to death by a mob. His wife is injured in the attack. The victim and his wife were walking home from a book fair. He is Avijit Roy. He had founded the website "Free Mind," set up in the year 2000. He was a US citizen born in Bangladesh and visiting there. He had received death threats said to have come from "Islamic radicals." True-believing violence prone Islamists in Bangladesh have many others to be concerned about in their desire to wipe out free-thinking: unintimidated students and social activists in Bangladesh have gathered to protest the murder. Wikipedia writes that in Bangladesh "Many atheist bloggers came under attack in 2013 during organised protests against online 'blasphemy', leading to the murder of Ahmed Rajib Haider." It adds that "Reporters without Borders has noted that Islamist groups produce hit lists including the murdered sociology professor Shafiul Islam, and atheist blogger Asif Mohiuddin, who narrowly survived a stabbing attack in 2013." Wikipedia goes on to say that in 2013, after widespread protests calling for the government to execute atheist bloggers "the secular government reacted by arresting some bloggers and blocking about a dozen websites and blogs, as well as giving police protection to some bloggers."

March 2015

Mar 1 The top story in today's English version of the Moscow Times is the massive outpouring today in Russia for the anti-Putin activist Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister. He was assassinated two days ago while walking home from a restaurant in central Moscow. The paper describes Putin as having called the assassination a "provocation" and as having vowed to pursue those who killed Nemtsov. Nemtsov was Jewish, and some have suggested the possibility of his being murdered by Islamistic extremists to blacken Putin's name. The Moscow Times writes that "Some young people walking in central Moscow asked: 'Who is Nemtsov anyway?'"   The paper describes Putin's opponents as talking about Putin having whipped up nationalism, hatred and anti-Western hysteria to rally support for his policies on Ukraine and deflect blame [regarding] an economic crisis.

 
Mar 2  Parlmentary elections in Estonia's keep the Reform Party in power. The results are being described as a disappointment to the "pro-Russian" Center Party, which took 24.8 percent of the vote. Estonia is a member of NATO and the EU since 2004. It is a former Soviet Republic. Its population was more than 30 percent Russia 1989. In 2014 the Russians were officially 24.8 percent of the population. The Reform Party advocates free-enterprise, a flat tax and zero taxes for corporations, but revenues have been around 35 percent of GDP compared to 17 percent for the US. Further to the Left, Estonia's Social Democratic Party won 15.2%, finishing third.

Mar 3  It is the second day in the war for Tikrit. Thousands of Iraqi soldiers and Shi'ite militiamen are advancing through the city, delayed by the Islamic State forces resisting with explosives and suicide bombers - more, one gathers from news reports, than with regular troops. The Iraqis have been attacking also with their aircraft. On their side in Tikrit are tribal leaders opposed to the Islamic State. Reported among the Shi'ite militiamen is Iran's Qassem Suleimani, a general who has been supervising most of Iran's proxies and has been accused of terrorizing Sunnis. The battle for Tikrit is being described as a strategically important milestone on the way to retaking the city of Mosul.

Mar 4  Congressional Republicans think President Obama is weak in foreign policy. They are strong in their support of Israel and invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to express his opinions on Obama's negotiations with Iran, which they know Netanyahu dislikes. Netanyahu came and yesterday said what he has been saying all along. He is worried about Iran having the material to make an atomic weapon. Neither does Obama want Iran to have an atomic weapon, but he believes in the possibility of an agreement. Iran wants sanctions lifted, and it claims it does not want nuclear weapons. Netanyahu told Congress of the Iranian regime's desire to destroy Israel. He said that if the deal now being negotiated is accepted by Iran it "would all but guarantee that Iran gets those weapons, lots of them." He said "not a single nuclear facility would be demolished" and that "inspectors document violations; they don't stop them." President Obama talked back, saying that Netanyahu does not offer any "viable alternatives" that would prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." He added that stopping negotiations would cause Iran to accelerate their nuclear program "without constraint." Today the Times of Israel describes Netanyahu as having "failed to offer concrete proposals how to curb nuclear threat" but said Netanyahu hinted he would back an agreement Israel "may not like, but could live with." If this is so, some of us wonder about the substance of his speech to the US Congress. Netanyahu, by the way, faces an election in two weeks and is campaigning for his fourth term as prime minister.

Mar 5  A US Department of Justice investigation reports that in the city of Ferguson, Missouri, "City and police leadership pressure officers to write citations, independent of any public safety need, and rely on citation productivity to fund the City budget." The report describes emails from "current city officials" over the past several years as containing racially insensitive remarks, one describing President Obama as a "chimpanzee." The report said several Ferguson officials "routinely dismissed parking tickets for their friends, colleagues and acquaintances" and complained about residents not taking responsibility regarding their tickets.

Mar 5  Namibia's outgoing president, Hifikepunye Pohamba, wins the Mo Ibrahim prize for African leadership. The award includes a $5 million initial payment plus $200,000 per year for life, exceeding the $1.3 million for the Nobel Peace Prize. Former recipients of the Mo Ibrahim prize: Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, and Kofi Annan. Pohamba has been in office since 21 March 2005 and has distinguished himself by moves against corruption and pushing for gender equality and increased spending on housing and education. He leaves office on 21 March 2015.

Mar 7  The mayor of Ferguson Missouri, James Knowles III, has announced that a court clerk, Mary Ann Twitty, has been fired and that two others, associated with the Police Department, are no longer employed. The three are accused of having communicated racist jokes or comments in city emails. The emails were disclosed in a US Department of Justice report. Mayor Knowles is a Republican, age 35, with BA degrees in political science and criminal justice.

Mar 9   Joseph Nye reminds us that "declining societies are often more dangerous than rising ones." For this reason he fears Russia more than China. Going into Europe's Great War in 1914 he points out, Austria-Hungary was "the only major power that really wanted war, and that's because Austria-Hungary was in decline." (Spoken on the 8th on Fareed Zakaria's CNN program the Global Public Square.)

Mar 9  On his program, Zakaria spoke of Prime Minister Netanyahu's eloquence in "identifying the problems with the potential nuclear deal with Iran. But when describing the alternative to it, he entered never, never land, painting a scenario utterly divorced from reality. Congress joined him on his fantasy ride, rapturously applauding as he spun out one unattainable demand after another."

Mar 10  A quote from the Moscow Times (an English-language daily newspaper published in Moscow since 1992): "Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he ordered officials to start work on taking control of Crimea weeks before a referendum which, the Kremlin has asserted until now, prompted the region's annexation from Ukraine." (9 Mar 2015)

Mar 14  Iraqi forces with Iranian help have been advancing in the city of Tikrit. The so-called Islamic State is late in launching a counter offensive. The longer it waits the higher the morale and the stronger its enemy. Instead, Islamic State resistance appears to be the strategy of those headed for defeat, similar to the use of body traps by retreating armies. It's reminiscent of 1943 when Germany and Japan were losing their wars but would continue fighting a year or two more. The Islamic State appears to be less than the tiger some have believed it to be. It makes a show of murdering non-combatants, but as a military force it isn't holding up, and probably like Germany and Japan during the World War it will pursue futility rather than make it easier for itself by quitting early.

 
Mar 16  Prime Minister Netanyahu, ending his election campaigning, vows that as long as his party - the Likud - is in power "there will be no concessions or withdrawals" from the occupied territories. He says the Jewish Home Party will be his main coalition partner. The Home Party's leader, Naftali Bennett, is with Netanyahu on stage and promises that Israel will never cede "a centimeter of land" to the Palestinians. "A people cannot be an occupier in its own land," he says, echoing the belief of his party's members that Jews are divinely commanded to retain control over the Land of Israel - including the West Bank. In accord with this, Netenyahu boasts that "we are building in Jerusalem, in all Jerusalem. This isn't the way of the left," he says, referring to his opponents Herzog and Livni. And Bennett warns that under Herzog-Livni "the capital of a Palestinian state will be established in East Jerusalem."

Mar 17  Yesterday, Netanyahu proclaimed that under his administration there would be no Palestinian state. He is claiming to be the man to be trusted regarding Israel's security - a security accomplished by not giving the Palestinians relief from Israel's occupation of their land. A group of 186 retired Israeli generals are campaigning against Netanyahu. With them is former Mosad Director Meir Dagan, former Intelligence Commander Amos Yadlin and fomer Mossad Director Shabai Shavit. These men appear to hold that a peace deal with the Palestinians would help serve Israel's security better than an endless war with Palestinians remaining under Israeli occupation. It's the opinion also of many leaders in the West, whose support Israel is going to continue to need.

Mar 22  In today's Sunday talk on CNN, Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei is described as not wanting to wipe Israel off the map militarily, especially involving nuclear weapons. What he wants is Israel to give up its rule over 4.5 million people against their will. Also discussed is the tense relations between Obama and Netanyahu. Netanyahu is described as on the outs with a lot of Western leaders, including Germany's Angela Merkel, made worse by Netanyahu's statement the day before the election that there would be no Palestinian state while he is Prime Minister. Netanyahu won votes from rightwingers as he intended and 30 seats for his Likud Party - a big success. The following day Netanyahu defended his position on the two-state solution, telling journalists that he meant that a two-state solution were not possible under present conditions. Netanyahu is viewed by some as slippery rather than trustworthy and as not friendly to a peace deal. He is known as friendly toward Jewish settlements, seen as a roadblock to a deal with the Palestinians. Netanyahu appears as not to be the man who is going to end Israel's occupation of the West Bank. Last July he said in a speech that he would never allow a Palestinian state without an Israeli military presence on its territory. The question remains what the Obama administration will do in the United Nations regarding support for Israel. Meanwhile US conservatives are in tune with the right in Israel and find fault with Obama rather than Netanyahu. Today, in an interview on CNN, Senator McCain told the president to get over his "temper tantrum" regarding Netanyahu's campaign remark.

Mar 24  Yesterday Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "I know the things I said a few days ago hurt some of Israel's citizens and hurt Israel's Arabs. I had no intention to do that. I apologize for it." He has been accused of fear mongering trying to win votes. Having apologized for hurting people's feelings leaves him unapologetic for attitudes toward the Palestinians and Israel's Arab community that some believe reflect a chauvinism detrimental to peace in the area. Meanwhile, Netanyahu remains the champion against those who want to wipe Israel off the map - people who help Netanyahu win elections. The Obama administration says it accepts Netanyahu's apology and US State Department says it t wants to see actions, not words; in other words, better policies.

Mar 25  In the US, whites are becoming less of a majority, as most of us know. Pew Research describes whites as 78 percent of the population for the age group 69-84 and 57 percent for the age group 18-33 - the so-called millennials. For these same age groups blacks are up from 8 percent to 13 percent, Asians from 4 to 6 percent. Hispanics among the millennials are 21percent, up from 8 percent. How many older whites resent this change is not reported. Pew Research in September 2014 reported the 69-84 age group as 23 percent "mostly conservative" and 22 percent "mostly liberal." The millennials were 12 percent mostly conservative and 28 percent mostly liberal. In other words, old white conservatives are in decline, and some among them no doubt don't like it.

Mar 26  China has a law against "provocation and causing a disturbance." Under this law, authorities have detained five young women who, for International Women's Day, were planning to distribute literature opposed to males groping females on subways and busses (often crowded). Foreign governments and human rights activists have asked China to release the five young women, and it has been mentioned that they were merely planning to suggest that all citizens comply with Chinese law. China, it has also been pointed out that Beijing has is stepping up its suppression of political activism. A foreign ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, is reported as saying said that nobody has the right to ask China to release the group. She said that her government "hoped relevant people would stop interfering in China's judicial sovereignty." This for some is just noise from the authorities in Beijing. Nobody outside China expects advanced powers to surrender their freedom to judge, their expressions of concern and their global outlook about how people are treated.

Mar 27  People were dismayed yesterday by the news that the crash of the German airliner three of days ago was deliberate. Today the top news story is that it was the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, age 28, who did it. He had been treated for depression years ago but had been considered recovered or cured. Yesterday people who knew Lubitz superficially expressed disbelief. Lubitz was able to play God and take 148 passengers and 5 other crew members with him in death after the pilot left the cockpit to go to the toilet. Lubitz took advantage of the security system that enables someone inside the cockpit to block the code system that unlocks the door from the passenger side. And the door was too strong for the pilot to break down - a drama that can be heard on the flight tape. The strategy of having of someone in the cockpit able to block the code system was strategy against the possibility of a hijacker forcing the code from a crew member. In the US if one of the two in the cockpit leaves he is simultaneously replaced by a flight attendant who is supposed put things right if something happens to the person flying the plane. Another possible precaution: both the pilot and co-pilot could have the means on their person to nullify the locking of the door. The episode is a reminder how easy it has been for many people, including child suicide bombers, to kill others by the dozens, or even hundreds without great anguish.

Mar 28  Today it has been revealed to the media that Andreas Lubitz had a dream. He wanted to be an airline pilot captain. But, according to a former flight attendant friend, "because of his health problems ... that was practically impossible." Lubitz had a problem with depression. And he was one of those who saw significance in standing out from the crowd. He wanted to be noticed. His flight attendant friend reports that he told her: "One day I'm going to do something that will change the whole system, and everyone will know my name and remember."

Mar 31  Meeting in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Arab League members agree to create a combined military force. The Arab League has 22 members. Six of them are Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. Not among them is Assad's Syria, kicked out in September 2011. The league was described yesterday as looking to combat Iran, Houhti rebels in Yemen and Islamic forces linked to Iran. The governments of member states are known for their hostility toward organized extremist groups, including the so-called Islamic State, of ISIS.

Mar 31  Bashar al Assad of Syria, in a recent interview with Charlie Rose, described Saudi Arabia and ISIS as one and the same ideologically. A "dark ideology," he said. "Definitely," he added. He also described Turkey's President Erdogan as a "fanatic" and "suffering from political megalomania." Assad describes himself as trying to win the hearts and minds of the Syrians, as merely fighting bad guys and as the victim of vicious propaganda. The United States he accuses of seeking only "followers" and never "partners" in its international relations. He sees the Arab League having suspended his membership as having nothing to do with the brutality of his regime. He sees himself still in power because of support from the Syrian people - saying nothing about support from Iran, Hezbollah, Russia and vicious military action. Assad appears to some of us as having the kind of mind, quite common in the world, that allows itself fantasies, that demonizes and is unrealistic about his adversaries and holds to a sense of persecution - a mediocre mind not good at handling conflicts.


April 2015

 
Apr 1 A new dynamic unfolds in the Middle East as Saudi Arabia pursues military action in Yemen, bombing targets for the sixth consecutive day and standing guard over Yemen's sea ports. Saudis have spoken about danger from Iran. According to the Saudis, Iran has been backing the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The stated purpose of the Saudis is to put back in power Yemen's President Hadi. They deny wanting to destabilize Iran. They describe themselves as fighting for peace. "We are not warmongers," says its foreign minister, "but if the drums of war are beaten we are ready for them." Saudi Arabia is supported by the Arab League, and the league has agreed to having a military organization similar to NATO. The US supports this move, and the Obama administration has renewed military assistance to a league member: Egypt. The Assad regime in Syria is bound to be affected. It is supported by the Iranians, and some suspect that the Iranians will want accommodation with the newly militarized Arab League rather than military confrontation. In the media there is talk of Iran and Saudi Arabia competing for supremacy in region. Today Iran warns that Saudi Arabia's moves in Yemen endanger the region.,Meanwhile the Saudi regime is boasting about national unity, and its foreign minister announces ground forces will enter Yemen as soon as possible.

Apr 2  Regarding an agreement between Iran and the US on Iran's nuclear program, hardliners in Iran are opposed to the agreement and better relations or integration with the West. They think integration would contaminate Iran culturally and politically. With Iran's Islamic revolution of 1979 in mind, they see Iran as a cause, and they don't want that cause weakened. They would rather Iran remain isolated - somewhat like North Korea. So said Karim Sadjadpour, Carnegie Endowment policy analyst, in a broadcast yesterday on Charlie Rose. The Obama administration appears to be on the side of Iran joining the international community and liberalizing. Some others in the US inadvertently put themselves on the same side as Iran's hardliners. Two Republicans, Senator McCain of Arizona and former UN ambassador John R Bolton, are among those who have spoken in favor of bombing Iran rather than the Obama administration's negotiations - the latter mentioned in a Washington Post column today by Dana Milibank. Bombing Iran, some believe, would enhance the standing in Iran of the country's anti-integrationists.

Apr 2, 1:30pm  The United States, Iran and five European Union powers announce an agreement on the shape of Iran's nuclear program. It is announced that s comprehensive nuclear accord would be drafted by 30 June. Secretary of State John Kerry tweets "Big day." Prime Minister Netanyahu tweets a note of belligerence, declaring that any deal must stop Iran's "terrorism and aggression."

Apr 5  Hardliners in Iran are saying their country is winning little or nothing and giving too much in the agreement at Lausanne, Switzerland. Hardliners in the US are saying the same thing concerning their country, and they remain concerned about Israel's security. Iran has been helping its friends in Iraq, Syria and Yeman, and elsewhere, but Iranians and their Supreme Leader must know that if they sent their military against Israel - with nukes or not - they would have war and misery big-time on their hands. Joy has appeared in Iran at the prospect of better international relations. This is expressed by Iranians who welcome the Lausanne agreement. The Supreme Leader has said nothing recently. In the US those who don't welcome the agreement focus on their distrust and dislike for Iran. They side with hostility and maybe even war with Iran. President Obama appears to be on the side of better relations and peace, and in recent days his approval ratings, around 45% on March 29, have risen to 50%. It's a little like the Cold War when Eisenhower favorered peaceful coexistence with the Soviet Union and hardliners in the US were opposed. Mao Zedong in China was annoying the Soviet Union by putting himself on the side of belligerence with the US (creating the Sino-Soviet dispute) and hardliners in the US were also on the side of belligerence.

Apr 7  Today Worldmeters indicates that so far this year we have 15,148,500 deaths and 36,713,675 births. That is 21,565,175 more persons since January 1 despite the warring and killings that take place daily. Most of us hope the increase is in someone else's community. Some of us see this as 21.6 million more souls. Some others see soul in both life and afterlife and their number as incalculable. Some worry about the impact that population growth has on societies and the world. Some others prefer to ignore any such connection. Anyway, the number of people in the world today is 7.3 billion. In 1950 it was only 2.4 billion. The Population Institute tweets today about the Ministry of Health in Burkina Faso and authorization of a family planning pilot project. Meanwhile the CIA World Factbook tells us that the highest birth rates are in Africa, led by Niger, Mali, Uganda and Zambia - between 46 and 42 births per 1,000 people in a one year period. The US figure for 2014 is 13.42 per thousand. South Korea, Sinagapore and Japan are down around 8 per one thousand.

Apr 9  In China a state TV anchor, Bi Fujian, is taken off the air after having been filmed at a private banquet singing a parody song that was unkind to Mao Zedong. A state media spokeperson says he will be off the air for four days. BBC News reports that "China officially acknowledges there were faults in Mao and the personality cult which surrounded him," but that "he remains hugely respected and insulting him and other leaders is a taboo." BBC News reports that commentators "online and in the media" in China are speaking of the affair as a sign of "the lack of free speech in China."

Apr 10  Two days ago Republican Senator Rand Paul announced that "with God's help and the help of liberty lovers everywhere" he was putting himself forward as a candidate for President of the United States of America. Meanwhile in Ohio it's rain, rain and more rain, while prayers go unanswered for an an end to the drought in California. The Democratic Party's governor there, Jerry Brown, is responding with a distribution scheme - the distribution of water. There are complaints that it's being done unfairly (by Brown, not God) - as if residential lawns have a societal value equal to the growing of crops. Senator Paul doesn't like government involvement in wealth distribution (or taxation or regulations), and he is not big on collective concerns over the whims of individuals. He is known for a degree of pragmatism, however, and he has been accused by some of flip-flopping on issues. But as he goes forward with his campaign he is sure to try to have God on his side.

Apr 14  Russia agrees again to sell Iran a surface-to-air S-300 defense system. The agreement was blocked in 2010 after the UN put sanctions on Iran regarding its nuclear program. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the voluntary embargo on S-300 deliveries to Iran is no longer needed. The system can be used against jet aircraft or incoming missiles. The Russians emphasize the "purely defensive" nature of the weaponry, but this doesn't mollify those considering the possibility of using offensive weapons against Itan. The Netanyuhu regime in Israel claims that Russia's move is proof that a nuclear ageement with Iran will result in an arms buildup and won't make the region safer, and there is concern that Itan will give the missile system to the Assad regime in Syria or to Hezbollah. Secreatary of State John Kerry has expressed his concerns to Lavrov by phone.

Apr 17  In China a 71-year-old woman journalist, Gao Yu, is sentenced today to seven years in prison. Her crime: leaking state secrets to foreign media. The state secrets were in an internal Communist Party directive concerning the Party's plan to fight threats to its power. The Guardian describes the directive as targeting subversive ideological trends including support for "western democratic ideals, media independence, civil society and the 'universal values' of human rights." The Wall Street Journal noted that it was" the third elderly critic of the Communist Party to be sentenced in court in less than a year, another sign of how Beijing's tolerance for dissent has eroded under Chinese President Xi Jinping." William Nee of Amnesty International calls it a "crack down of freedom of expression."

Apr 17  Good weather has encouraged more migrations from Africa to Italy. The UN estimates their number to be 13,000 in the past week and that during the week hundreds died trying. The Voice of America writes, "On the shores of southern Italy, each day brings a new wave of migrants and more harrowing tales of extreme suffering."

Apr 19  Today a boat carrying as many as 700 migrants is said to have capsized. Italy is pursuing a rescue operations. Hundreds are thought to have drowned. Pope Francis has expressed his "deepest sorrow" over the sinking and appeals to the international community to prevent such incidents from happening again. The European Union he EU is reported as having been criticized for halting its rescue operation last year. BBC News reports that "Some EU members said they could not afford it and expressed concerns that it was encouraging more migrants." Someone comments to the Huffington Post: 'When Africans drown off the coast of Africa, why does this fuel calls for a stronger response from Europe. Shouldn't it fuel calls for a stronger response from Africa?" Someone blames Obama for having intervened in Libya. Someone else describes Sicily as poor and getting worse and as having no work available for the migrants.

Apr 20  A look at the World Factbook today tells us that China passed the US in GDP back in 2014. So did the European Union. All three have economies in the $17 trillion range. India is fourth with a mere $7.2 trillion. We used to hear talk about China and India regarding which system would be more economically successful. Meanwhile the US leads China, India and the EU in per capita GDP but is behind Singapore, Norway and Switzerland. We are not hearing much in explanations. Today were are hearing about China's President, Xi Jinping, arriving in Pakistan. BBC News writes of China's continuing 7 percent annual GDP growth rate and China having "plenty of cash to splash" around for investment in more growth. It's investments are greatest in the US, Australia and Canada, but it's also investing big in Africa, and a government inspired investment package of $46 billion by China in Pakistan will include the building of roads, a railway and pipelines between the two countries - which share a border in the mountainous region in Pakistan's far north. China, by the way, had taxes and revenues at 22.2 percent of its GDP in 2014, compared to 17.4 percent for the US. The conservative website heritage.org gives China an economic freedom score of 52.7 compared to 76.2 for the United States. The US economy is more dependent on people with a lot of money free to invest as they please, and GDP growth in the US is hovering around a 3.5 percent annual rate, which is better than most European countries. Its rate for 2014 according to the World Factbook was 2.4 percent, ranking 131st in the world. We are not hearing accusations that US citizens with big money to spend are investing too heavily in golf courses or sports stadiums, in expanding their homes or creating products that Americans don't need, but for the time being it appears that government initiated investing as is being done by China is out performing investing done by private enterprise alone - in India and the United States. Perhaps Republicans running for president and complaining about President Obama will explain it for us.

Apr 27   The World's attention is on the big earthquake, landslide and rescue near Katmandu, Nepal. The death toll may rise to 10,000 when all the bodies are recovered. Nepal's economy is tourism-dependent and Slate magazine says the destruction may depress the economy for years. Seismologists expected the earthquake to come soon, but Nepal is among the poorer countries unable to prepare well for a big natural disaster. Virtually no one is raising the issue of fatalism, while In the US, at catholicism.about.com, concern is expressed and the disaster is described as the result of humanity's disobedience. People are asked to pray that the physical destruction be turned into the spiritual well-being of those who have survived.

Apr 27  The economist Jeffrey Sachs says the climate is becoming more unstable, that 2014 was the hottest year in instrument record. "We felt it not only in high temperatures around the world but in floods, in droughts, in extreme storms, and there's a lot more to come." He points out that in 1750 there were 800 million people alive on the planet and now there are over 7 billion, and people on average are using ten times the resources used in 1750. Sachs says 2015 is the last year we can act on climate change.

Apr 28  David Applegate, Associate Director for Natural Hazards, US Geological Survey, describes the source of the quakes in Nepal as "tectonic plates colliding... It's been going on for the last 50 million years." he said. With yesterday's comment from catholicism.about.com in mind, that would be long before humanity had appeared on earth and long before Adam's disobedience.

Apr 28  Described by Jay Michaelson in the Daily Beast, today the US Supreme Court hears arguments whether "all states must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and if they don't, whether they must recognize those issued by other states. Most attention has focused on the first question, since it would render the second one irrelevant." In others words, today it will be argued whether bans on same sex marriage are constitutional. The Constitution, of course, does not lay out for its readers a definition of marriage. It doesn't contain the words "marriage" or "marry." Those against same sex marriage define marriage as between a male and female. They want the Constitution interpreted using their definition - and they would oppose a constitutional amendment that was explicit in making same sex marriage legal. They accuse those who want a broader interpretation of "marriage" of inventing law, and those who support same sex marriage accuse them of impositions.

Apr 29  Yesterday's arguments at the Supreme Court began with civil rights Attorney Mary Bonauto for the plaintiffs calling marriage the "foundation of family life in our society," and she said that denying gay couples the right to marriage relegated them to second-class status and put a "stain of unworthiness" on them. Chief Justice Roberts raised the definition of "marriage" issue. He said that for hundreds of years marriage has been defined as between a man and a woman, and he asked why should it change. Justice Ginsberg pointed to changes that have occurred in marriage over the years and appeared to be on the side of overcoming the past. From other justices came questions about societal benefits: a concern about harm to children and, oddly enough, procreation. And Justice Scalia spoke of the ancient Greeks and Romans not having marriages for homosexuals, hardly making a connection between the purposes of marriage in those ancient cultures and the dignity and equal rights for people in the United States today raised by Mary Bonauto. Justice Scalia is known more for his interest in cultural preservation than he is in overcoming the past, and he has till June to work on the issue. Then he and the other justices make their decision.

Apr 30  In Burundi, described as a presidential republic and a democracy, unrest continues following President Pierre Nkurunziza's political party having nominated him for a third term. Burundi's constitution allows only two terms. Nkurunziza's allies say his first term does not count because he was appointed for his first term by parliament; in other words he was elected president only once. Nkurunziza rose in to prominence as a rebel leader. Now he is closing down Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter and Tango. He has deployed his military, banned protests and shut down the country's main independent radio station. Burundi has a variety of political parties. It suffered from civil war before Nkurunziza became president in 2005, and it is described as suffering from corruption and poor access to education. It is one of the world's more densely populated countries, with many young people leaving to seek opportunities elsewhere and a birth rate four times countries such as Canada, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland. The election for the presidency is scheduled for June 26.


May 2015

May 1   Yesterday the US Supreme Court upheld a Florida law against judicial candidates soliciting campaign money. Chief Justice Roberts sided with the court's four liberals, saying "Judges are not politicians." The court spoke of a "compelling interest in judicial integrity" and a "regrettable but unavoidable appearance that judges who personally ask for money may diminish their integrity." National Public Radio reported, " That reputation has been tarnished in recent years by the big money moving into judicial elections."

May 2  More setback for those opposed to integrating with the 21st century. Nigeria announces 234 more women and children hostages have been rescued from Boko Haram. Earlier this past week Nigerian troops pushed Boko Haram militants out of the area around the town of Bama in north-east Nigeria. President Goodluck Jonathan (who leaves office on May 29) predicts that Boko Haram will be routed in one month.

May 4  Ten motorcyclists from Russia are touring Europe. They are described as "fiercely nationalistic." They call themselves the Night Wolves, and having a narcissistic association with power they plan to ride into Berlin to celebrate Russia's victory over Germany in 1945. They support Putin and Putin has been described as supporting them. They were barred from entering Poland, and Russia's foreign ministry accused the Polish government of lying about the reasons why. The group is described as having about 5,000 members across the former Soviet Union.

May 5  A Russian human rights group, Memorial, is calling for a ban on public glorification of Josef Stalin. It writes: "We are in no way talking about deleting Stalin from history … But the place of a dictator belongs in museum halls, books, and in historical monographs in the context of their actions - not in city squares." Some glorification is expected in a few days when the Russians commemorate the 70th anniversary of the allied victory over Nazi Germany. Today the French news agency AFP writes that "Since President Vladimir Putin took power in 2000, there has been a growing chorus of Russians who take a positive view of the Soviet tyrant's role in history." AFP writes of "a recent burst of patriotic fervour whipped up by state-controlled media" and a "creeping rehabilitation of Stalin."

May 6  Back March in the center of Kabul a devout Muslim woman, Farkhunda, annoyed a man and he retaliated by falsely accusing her of destroying the Koran - something he made up on the spot. She was a recent graduate of religious studies and had accused the man of selling sham trinkets. People hearing the accusation beat her to death as police stood by. She was run over by a car. Her body was burned and tossed into a river. Public outrage prompted the Afghan government and court to act with unusual swiftness. Today, following a two-day trial, a judge sentenced four men to death for the crime, sentenced eight others to 16 years in prison and acquitted 18. The accused will be able to appeal. Policemen accused of neglecting their duty will hear a verdict expected in a few days. From the accused came complaints of an unfair hearing.

May 7  Yesterday the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported a new record in wordwide carbon dioxide levels - 400 parts per million. They described this as a level not reached for the last two million years, that CO2 has risen more than 120 parts per million since pre-industrial times and that "half of that rise has occurred since 1980." The agency collects air samples from forty sites around the world, including remote islands. The burning of oil, gas and coal for energy is described as contributing to the rise.

May 9  It is Victory Day in Russia, the 70th anniversay of Germany's defeat. Putin is showing off Russia's weaponry. With China's President Xi standing next to him, Putin speaks of the importance of international cooperation in preventing carnage and describes what he sees as the big threat to peace. He says "in the past decades we have seen attempts to create a unipolar world." He is not referring to a diffusion of nations such as Poland, Ukraine, Britain, France, Germany and others. Better for propaganda purposes to have a single target to refer to. News sources describe "many Western leaders" as having boycotted Russia's event. But Venezuela's president, Maduro, was there. So too was Raul Castro. With Russia, they and China have been critical of hostile moves against the Assad regime in Syria.

May 12  The Pew Research Center has just published new figures on the religiosity of adults in the United States. Between the years 2007 and 2014 those who declare themselves atheists, agnostics or having no religious affiliation has risen to 22.8%, up 6.7%. Evangelical Protestants have declined from 26.3% to 25.4%. So-called "mainline" Protestants have declined from 18.1% to 14.7%. Those identifying themselves as Catholic have declined from 23.9% of the population (according to the Pew sample) to 20.8%. People adhering to non-Christian faiths as a percentage of the population has risen from 4.7 to 5.9 percent. (All this adds up to only 89.6%.) According to the research, "younger adults are far more likely than older Americans to identify as religious 'nones,' and men are more likely than women to be religiously unaffiliated." Also, "Baby Boomers also have become slightly but noticeably more likely to identify as religious 'nones' in recent years... [and] the percentage of college graduates who identify with Christianity has declined by nine percentage points since 2007 (from 73% to 64%)." It has been claimed by some that when it comes to people describing their piety many are less than candid. In other words, there may be fewer people associated with a faith than Pew's figures indicate. Some who are religiously inclined, no doubt, will see this as another indication that the world is going to hell.

May 13  Rush Limbaugh, big name media commentator, gives us his take on the Pew Research Center report on the decline of religion in the United States. People, he says, "have left their churches because of social issues and the evolution of their churches to social areas they didn't want to go and don't feel comfortable being in." In other words the decline described yesterday by the Pew Research Center is the result of people offended by homosexuality. He spoke of "less than 1 million gay activists" able to "bully and steamroll an entire country." He says he isn't condemning anyone; he is just guessing. And he complains that groups who make up a majority in the country one way or another are "not pushing back." How pushing back might be accomplished he does not say. Meanwhile a broader opinion battle continues. Someone weighing in on the issue in a media "comment" section sides with the decline and says "You don't need religion or have a book to have morals or tell you what is right and wrong." Someone disagrees with this, saying, "If you are allowed to make this up for yourself, you rapidly descend into moral relativism."

May 14  Rick Santorum is in the news again talking about running for president. Responding to the Pew Research report about Christianity's decline he told reporters yesterday that he who leads the country makes a difference, suggesting that if he were president he would reverse the trend by setting a good example.

May 14  In the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the minister of defence, Hyon Yong Chol, a couple of weeks ago was at concert hall watching the country's most popular band perform "Glorious Motherland" and "My Country is the Best." For General Choi's there were days filled with pomp, ceremony and exchanges of bows. He has been described as a sociable man and committed to his work. In his uniform heavy with medals he delivered a speech warning the US of his country's ability to launch a "nuclear strike." Then, suddenly, he was charged with treason and executed in front of a gathering of military men at a firing range. The weapon was an anti-aircraft cannon - all this according to South Korea's intelligence service, the NIS. In the US an expert on North Korea, Michael Madden, is reported by AlJazeera as saying that ""Internally, there does not seem to be any respect for [the supreme leader] Kim Jong-un within the core and middle levels of the North Korean leadership." Kim Jung Un appears to be using a failed method for holding on to power - a method that didn't work for Caligula, Nero or Robespierre.

May 15  Anthropoligist Mark Dyble has led a study, published in the journal Science, that describes men and women before the rise of agriculture as relating to each other as equals. Studying today's hunter-gatherer societies, the study describes the sexes having an equal influence on where their group lives and who they live with. With agriculture, the study claims, people were able to accumulate resources for the first time and an imbalance emerged. It then began to pay more for men "to start accumulating resources and becomes favorable to form alliances with male kin." Dyble points to the difference between early humans and chimpanzees. "Chimpanzees live in quite aggressive, male-dominated societies with clear hierarchies."

May 18  In Waco Texas, biker gangs wage war against each other in front of a hangout, a Twin Peaks restaurant that features waitresses in Bikinis. Police report 8 deaths and 18 injured, and "hundreds of bikers from several rival factions" involved. According to the New York Times. "The fight spilled into the parking lot, initially involving just fists and feet, but escalating quickly to chains, knives, clubs and firearms." At a press conference a policeman said, "There are dead people still there, there is blood everywhere ... There are bullet holes in vehicles all over the parking lot," Police report that people arrived with weapons as news of the gang fight spread and that they were arrested on sight. More than 165 are reported jailed. Someone comments: "People have been killing each other since we came into existence. Nothing new. Skin tone is pretty irrelevant."

May 19  The Islamic State (IS) is not on the run as described on this timeline for March 14. It has been driven out of Tikrit, but Iraqi forces moving on to strike against them in the north, in Mosul, appears to have been slowed. Today's BBC News headline reads, "IS militants tighten grip on Ramadi." It continues: "Militants were going door-to-door looking for government sympathizers and throwing bodies in the Euphrates river, residents were quoted as saying." Ramadi is the capital of Anbar province, about 65 miles west of Baghdad. An Iran-backed Shia militia is moving against Ramadi. IS is described as in control of about half of Anbar province. Rearding Iraq, in the US the columnist Michael Gerson tells Republican presidential candidates that "the alternative to invasion and occupation is not retreat." He speaks instead of "the determined exercise of power at a distance." Meanwhile the Obama administration promises to help Iraqi forces retake Ramadi. According to BBC News, "Officials said coalition aircraft were already seeking Islamic State targets in and around Ramadi, carrying out eight strikes in a 24-hour period ending Monday [yesterday], while noting 32 such strikes had been carried out over the past three weeks."

May 22  The Islamic States continues to expand. It has taken control of Palmyra, in Syria, and it has seized the last Syria-Iraq border crossing that had been controlled by the Assad regime. According to BBC News, IS now controls half of Syria. A militant among the IS fighters proclaims to a BBC News camera his love of paradise: "With men who love death as much as you love life you will never be safe as long as we are alive." This matches a statement in 2012 made by a Hamas soldier to Israeli soldiers. He said: The Al-Qassam Brigades love death more than you love life." Others have described those who favor life as being inspired by the devil.

May 25  In studying plankton, an international team of scientists find 35,000 species of bacteria, 5,000 new viruses and 150,000 single-celled plants and creatures. Of the 5,000 virus "communities" only 39 were previously known," according to BBC News.

May 25  The US compay Bell Helicopter signs a contract to have its helicopter assembled in Russia.

May 25  President Putin signs legislation that will forbid foreigners from pursuing activities that the government finds a threat to the country's constitutional order, defense or security. These foreign organizations will be denied promoting their activities through the media or the internet. Russians who collaborate with them, be they ordinary people, lawyers, banks or financial institutions, will be deemed accomplices and face fines or a prison term up to six years. Sergei Nikitin, head of the Russian branch of Amnesty International, complains that "The law is directed against civil society in Russia."

May 26  In China a government strategy document proclaims a naval focus to "open seas protection" rather than just "offshore waters defence." And it announces faster development in the country's cyber force to challenge "grave security threats." A news reader for state media makes a seemingly hyperbolic comment that war with the United States may be "inevitable." Reuters reports today that Japan is to join the US and Australia in war games, which it describes as "a sign of growing security links between the three countries as tensions fester over China's island building in the South China Sea."

May 28  President Obama on the 26th said that the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Water Act (1972) are moving to protect streams and rivers, from polluters. "One in three Americans," he said, "now gets drinking water from streams lacking clear protection... Too many of our waters have been left vulnerable to pollution." Landowners vulnerable to the charge of pollution are irate and letting Congress know of their opposition to being told how to manage their own property. The House of Representatives has passed legislation to block Obama's move, and the Senate has a similar bill pending. The Associated Press reports that Republican Senator James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, will consider a measure this summer and "continue our work to halt EPA's unprecedented land grab."

May 28  Last year, Texas suffered from drought. In recent days Texas has experienced record rain falls. Floods are reported as having killed nineteen. Bill Ney, the science guy, has complained that no weather newspersons are uttering the phrase Climate Change. Deniers have expressed outrage with Nye for mentioning climate change. A sampling of newscasts in Europe yesterday did produce talk of "extreme weather," including Britain's BBC News reporting that "Extreme weather has been wreaking havoc in the US, where storms and tornadoes have caused major flooding in the states of Oklahoma and Texas."

June 2015

Jun 2  Islamic State fighters suffering from air strikes in eastern Syria are expanding their presence in the Aleppo area of Syria, opening a new front in the IS anti-IS war. The Iraqi government is still reeling from its military setback in Ramadi, just sixty miles west of Baghdad. Iraq's prime minister complains that the international coalition is not doing enough in the fight against IS. He says Iraq urgently needs more intelligence and weapons, including anti-tank guns, that it has received very few arms or ammunition despite coalition pledges. He adds that he was waiting for UN approval to uy weapons from Iran. President Obama's defense secretary has complained that Iraqi forces are unwilling to fight. In the US, the pundit Fareed Zakara opines that "the problem really is not that Iraq's army has collapsed. It's that Iraq has collapsed." The media meanwhile is discussing Islamic State forces consolidating its hold on territory by blending in with local Sunni populations.

 
Jun 3  President Obama signs into law the USA Freedom Act. It ends the government's gathering of telephone records, not a gathering of data that was personal, just the fact that the calls were made, thousands of calls simultaneously, without content of the communication. Now the record of calls having been made will stay with the telecom companies, but the government can search the content of specific telephone calls from the telecom companies after it provides a court order for that specific search. In the matter of personal privacy little has changed. Some put themselves at the center of it, seeing it as an issue of the government spying on them personally. Others see data collection as an important tool for national security that only those plotting crimes need worry about. Republicans have been split on the issue, with Senator Rand Paul on the side of privacy, complaining with emotion about the loss of freedom gained with independence in the late 1700s. He said something close to the old line that he was "sick and tired and wasn't going to take it any more." Senator Paul is expected to excite too few people in his bid to become the next US President.

Jun 5  Scientists at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration claim that the "much discussed" recent slowdown in global temperatures is far less than previously thought. Dr Thomas Karl, who led the new analysis, says: "We would hope that it would inform the general public that the temperature today really is continuing to warm."

Jun 5  War in Ukraine is heating up despite the cease-fire agreed to in February. Ukraine's President Poroshenko favors more power to mayors and making governors and officials at the regional intermediaries between the federal government and local government. This decentralization is not enough for pro-Russians in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. They are reported as wanting leaders perhaps powerful enough to be more loyal to Moscow than to Kiev. Poroshenko has told his military to prepare for a possible "full scale" invasion from Russia. Fighting has resumed in Eastern Ukraine, with a report yesterday of casualties of 25 dead and dozens more injured. The border between Russia and the pro-Russian regions remains open. Russia is being described as sending equipment and military men into the regions and Putin's denial as lying.

Jun 7  On fighting the Islamic State, David Petraeus a few days ago told Charlie Rose of CBS News that "In this war of ideas nothing succeeds like success. [Jihadis] want to go with a winner. Over time we want to show them that ISIL is not a winner." He labeled the situation in Iraq "worrisome." Ramadi," he said, "will be retaken." Baghdad, he claimed, will not fall but that the US needs to "augment" its help to the Abadi regime there, perhaps with more advisors and clearly with more equipment.

Jun 7  President Putin tells the Italian newspaer Corriere della Sera that the West need not fear Russia, that "Only an insane person and only in a dream can imagine that Russia would suddenly attack Nato." Putin said that "people with some common sense cannot even imagine such a large-scale military conflict today. We have other things to think about, I assure you.">

Jun 8  President Obama, at the close of the G7 summit in Germany asks regarding President Putin, "Does he continue to wreck his country's economy and continue Russia's isolation in pursuit of a wrong-headed desire to recreate the glories of the Soviet empire? Or does he recognise that Russia's greatness does not depend on violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries?" Putin was not in attendance, Russia having been excluded from what had been G8 conferences. Obama spoke of the possibility of "additional steps" could be taken to punish Russia. Also today, Reuters headlines, "With eye on US election, Republicans assail Russia's Putin." It continues: "The Russian president has emerged as a symbol for what they view as President Barack Obama's weak foreign policy, and an easy route for criticizing his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, the Democrats' likely choice for the November 2016 election."

Jun 12  The Saudi writer and activist and the creator of the website Free Saudi Liberals, didn't receive his fifty lashes today - a part of his sentence of 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes for having insulted Islam. His sentence was upheld on Jun 7. His first 50 lashes were delivered outside a mosque in Jeddah on 9 January. Subsequent lashings have been postponed on medical grounds. Mr Badawi's wife, who has fled Saudi Arabia and lives in Canada with the couple's three children. is begging the Saudi monarchy that it give amnesty for her husband.

Jun 13  In late May, ten tourists, Canadian and European, at the top of Malaysia's Mount Kinabalu celebrated their climb by posing for a photograph. They were stripped to a minimum of clothing. An earthquake centered in Borneo on 6 June killed sixteen people on a mountain there. Sixteen people died. The quake was felt in Malaysia, A Malaysian official associated the quake with the nudity of the climbers on Mount Kibabalu. Local people in Malaysia believe Mount Kinabalu is the final resting place of their ancestors. They view the mountain as sacred and the claim has been made that the quake they felt was the anger of offended a Mount Kibabalu spirit or spirits. (Islam is monotheistic and so the a mountain spirit is not called a god as some did in ancient times.) Four of the climbers were arrested. Today, the four are reported as having been fined and released.

Jun 13  This last May was the warmest in more than 130 years of global recorded weather history, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. These were temperatures on land and the oceans, the latter 1.06 degrees fahrenheit above the 20th century average.

Jun 15  Richard Haass, president of the of the Council on Foreign Relation, and Fareed Zakaria agree that lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan indicate that military stuff doesn't fix things if the politics isn't fixed. Haass says that doing a little something new here or there isn't going to do it against the Islamic State. Haass says we are "going to be overwhelmed by the pace and the dynamic of events beyond our control." He adds, "So not only do I not think the course we're on will succeed in Iraq, I think the Middle East is probably going to get worse before It gets even worse." Some who support President Obama's strategy are not so pessimistic. They support what Haass denounces as incrementalism. There are those believe in muddling through rather than being utopian, and there are those who find comfort in the realization that the Islamic State's strategy, like al-Qaeda's before it, is fundamentally flawed.

Jun 16   Wealthy communities in heavily Republican districts between Los Angeles and San Diego face a crackdown on water usage. "Under the new rules," writes the Washington Post, "each household will be assigned an essential allotment for basic indoor needs. Any additional usage - sprinklers, fountains, swimming pools - must be slashed by nearly half for the district to meet state-mandated targets." "I call it the war on suburbia," said Brett Barbre, of Yorba Linda. He compares his water hose with Charlton Heston's famous quote about guns: "They'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands." He complains that California is becoming a place of "one group telling everybody else how they think everybody should live their lives." Someone else complains that people should not be forced to live on property with brown lawns or golf on brown courses. A water supervisor complains that "whenever one of our trucks go in [to a gated community] the gardeners all seem to call each other - text-message each other - to let them know that we've arrived. So then all of a sudden we see water kind of draining off the property but no sprinklers on." Over 7000 comments follow the Washington Post article. Someone from Arizona writes: "Let us know when the last Californian has died of thirst so that we can have the appropriate celebration."

Jun 16  In New York City, Donald J. Trump, real estate developer, announces his entry into the 2016 presidential race. According to the New York Times "he proclaimed that only someone 'really rich' - like himself - could restore American economic primacy." The Times quoted him as saying, "We need somebody that can take the brand of the United States and make it great again." He assailed China and Mexico as economic competitors, and pledged to be "the greatest jobs president that God ever created."

Jun 17  A white gunman open fires and kills nine people in a a historic black church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. He flees and sets off an overnight manhunt.

Jun 18  In a 184-page encyclical, Pope Francis callsfor a radical transformation of politics, economics and individual lifestyles to confront environmental degradation and climate change. He puts blame on apathy, a reckless pursuit of profits, excessive faith in technology, and political shortsightedness. He describes the most vulnerable victims as the world's poorest people, who are being dislocated and disregarded.

Jun 18  In Denmark, voting results in the ousting of the country's center-left government. An anti-immigrant, anti-European Union party, the Danish People's Party, emerges second in the polling, elevated from the margins of politics.

Jun 23 Regarding negotiations taking place in Vienna, Iran's Parliament votes against any major concessions on its nuclear program, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei complains that "America is after destroying our nuclear industry altogether."

Jun 24 President Obama hosts a reception at the White House in recognition of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.

Jun 26 In what is being called Bloody Friday, Islamic State militants kill scores of civilians, intensifying questions about the evolving nature of international terrorism and what can be done to fight it. The terrorists struck in Lebanon. In an American-owned chemical plant in France one person was decapitated and an attempt was made to blow up the facility. At a seaside resort in Tunsia at least thirty-eight people were murdered. In Kuwait a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a mosque during communal prayers, killing at least 25 Shiite worshipers.

Jun 26 The US Supreme Court rules 5-to-4 vote that the US Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.

Jun 30 President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, joins President Obama in announcing agreements to address climate change. Separately, China pledges to halt the growth in its carbon emissions.

Jun 31 Frank Smitha sells his huge world history website (fsmitha.com and macrohistory.com) to educational-web businessman Scott Jones of the United Kingdom.

July 2015

 
Jul 1  President Obama announces full diplomatic ties with Cuba, that the US and Cuba have agreed to open embassies in each other's capital cities.

Jul 1  A temperature of 36.7 (98 degrees Fahrenheit) is recorded at Heathrow airport in London; the hottest temperature in the UK in twelve years and the hottest July day on record.

Jul 2  A woman dies of measles at the University of Washington Medical Center, the first measles death in the United States since 2003.

Jul 5  In a referendum, Greeks vote against the austerity and other reforms demanded their government's creditors. The question of Greece leaving the Euro is in the air. Greece could address its debt if it had its own currency, by devaluation. It is said that big money in Greece doesn't want to leave the Euro or a loss in value of their cash.

Jul 7  In the Washington Times today, Joseph Curl asks, whether Repubiican presidential candidate Donald Trump is a Democratic plant? He writes of one unnamed Republican Party official complaining about Trump offending Hispanics. Someone sends in a comment:, "The American middle class is just looking for ANYONE with the spine it takes to battle the apparent Cultural Marxism of the media, and the NWO [New World Order?] corruption of the Democrats and corporations.

Jul 7  Shares on China's stock exchange have lost a third of their value in less than a month. Trading for more than 90 percent of 2,774 shares listed on the exchange are suspended or halted.

Jul 7  The Philippines ask an international tribunal at The Hague to declare China's claims to virtually all the South China Sea invalid.

Jul 9  China has begun rounding up civil-rights lawyers and their support staff for interrogation.

Jul 9  Thailand sends back to China more than 100 Uighur refugees and receives harsh criticism from the UN refugee agency and human rights groups over concerns that they face persecution by the Chinese government.

Jul 10  The Confederate battle flag - a powerful symbol of slavery and the Old South that has roiled emotions in South Carolina for decades - was removed from the Statehouse grounds Friday in a brief ceremony observed by thousands kept at a distance behind metal barriers. President Obama tweeted, describing it as "a signal of good will and healing, and a meaningful step towards a better future."The issue is said to have come to a head following the killing of nine black worshipers at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston on June 17 by a young white supremacist

Jul 10  Florida's Senator Marco Rubio, a top contender for the Republican nomination for president, says that he wins the presidency he would "absolutely" reverse steps President Obama has taken to far to normalize relations with Cuba. "In fact, I think they're in violation of the law," he said during his campaign swing through Iowa.

Jul 12  In China it is announced that Xi Xiaoming, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court, has been swept up by the country's anti-graft dragnet.

Jul 14  After months of debate, Iran and a coalition of countries including the United States reach an agreement on Iran's nuclear program. They agree that the UN Security Council's sanctions against Iran will be lifted in exchange for the reduction of Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium by about 98 percent for the next 15 years. President Obama's National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, says that when implements the agreement will cut off all of Iran's potential pathways to a nuclear weapon in a fully verifiable fashion. She says the deal is not about terrorism or Iran's destabilizing activities in the region, "all of which we remain deeply concerned about."

Jul 15  In China, many of around 120 detained in a roundup of lawyer and their staff have been released, but 31 are still missing or believed to be in custody.

Jul 16  In Tennessee,A 24-year-old naturalized US citizen with an engineering degree, Youef Absulazeea, who has been described as a normal nice guy, opens fire on two military installations, killing five service members, wounding another and killing a police office before he is shot to death. His act has been described as revenge for the mistreatment of friends.

Jul 16  Japan's lower house of parliament approves legislation that allows a Japan's military to participate in foreign conflicts in a limited capacity. The vote was accompanied by angry demonstrations outside parliament. China's foreign ministry spokesperson says, "We solemnly urge the Japanese side to draw hard lessons from history, stick to the path of peaceful development, respect the major security concerns of its Asian neighbors, and refrain from jeopardizing China's sovereignty and security interests or crippling regional peace and stability."

Jul 19  Today in Columbia, South Carolina, Klansmen carrying Confederate battle flags gathered to protest the removal of the flag from the statehouse on the 10th, as they said they would. They shouted racial slurs at a Black Unity Rally behind a police barrier.

Jul 20  Ann Coulter describes as just a flip remark Trump saying he doesn't like military men who become war heroes by being taken captive (like John McCain). She describes as "midgets" his rival candidates who are criticizing him for the remark. Coulter describes Trump's main issue as immigration.

Jul 21  Governor John Kasich of Ohio announces his run for president. He asks for prayers and support and says, "The sun is rising, and the sun is going to rise to the zenith in America again, I promise you."

Jul 21  In Burundi a presidential election is held. President Pierre Nkurunziza was running for a third term despite his ineligible to run again. The opposition is boycotting the election. Nkurunziza wins re-election.

Jul 23  A gunman opens fire at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, killing two people and injuring nine others before committing suicide.

Jul 24  Turkey's jets strike against IS positions in Syria and move against IS militants inside Turkey, this following IS explosions that killed 32 in Suruc, inside Turkey. Turkish jets also struck against Kurds in northern Iraq, for the first time since 2013. The Kurdish PKK is described as having mass support across Kurdish regions in Turkey and Syria. In Turkey, a People's Democracy Party, seen as close to the PKK, won 13% of the vote in Turkey general election in June. Turkey's government and the PKK have been holding to a cease-fire since 2013, and the PKK now accuses the government of abandoning the peace process. Today it is reported that Turkish police have arrested 297 in raids against alleged supporters of several militant groups, including IS.

Jul 25  A court in northeast China sentenced five people to prison for spreading the teachings of Quannengshen, a banned religious group that's been linked to a killing of a woman in a McDonald's restaurant last year.

Jul 30  Zimbabwe is requesting the extradition of the Minnesota dentist. James Palmer, who shot and killed Cecil the lion. Zimbabwe wants to charge him with poaching. Palmer complains that he relied on his local guides to ensure that he was doing everything legally.

August 2015


 
Aug 1  President Obama announces full diplomatic ties with Cuba

Aug 2  Puerto Rico defaulted Saturday, missing a $58 million debt payment on Public Finance Corporation bonds. Victor Suarez, the governor's chief of staff, said Friday the island only has enough money to operate until November if nothing is done to increase cash flow. Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla announced in June that Puerto Rico would need restructuring on an unpayable $72 billion in debt.

Aug 5  In a referendum, Greeks vote against austerity and other reforms demanded by their government's creditors. The question whether Greece will be leaving the Euro is in the air. If Greece has its own currency it could address its debt problem by devaluation. Greeks with a lot of cash don't want to leave the Euro. The value of their cash would decline with conversion to Greek currency and devaluation.

Aug 7  Today In the Washington Times Joseph Curl asks whether Repubiican presidential candidate Donald Trump is a Democratic plant? He writes of an unnamed Republican Party official complaining about Trump offending Hispanics. Someone sends the paper a comment: "The American middle class is just looking for ANYONE with the spine it takes to battle the apparent Cultural Marxism of the media, and the NWO [New World Order?] corruption of the Democrats and corporations.

Aug 7  Shares on China's stock exchange have lost a third of their value in less than a month. Trading of more than 90 percent of 2,774 shares listed on the exchange are suspended or halted.

Aug 7  The Philippines ask an international tribunal at The Hague to declare China's claims to virtually all the South China Sea invalid.

Aug 9  China has begun rounding up civil-rights lawyers and their support staff for interrogation.

Aug 9  Thailand sends back to China more than 100 Uighur refugees. The UN refugee agency and human rights groups criticize Thailand over concerns that the refugees face persecution by the Chinese government.

Aug 10  The Confederate battle flag - a symbol of slavery and the Old South that has roiled emotions in South Carolina for decades - was removed from the Statehouse grounds on the 7th in a brief ceremony observed by thousands kept at a distance behind metal barriers. President Obama tweeted that it was "a signal of good will and healing, and a meaningful step towards a better future." The issue is said to have come to a head following the killing of nine black worshipers at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston on June 17 by a young white supremacist.

Aug 10  Florida's Senator Marco Rubio, a contender for the Republican nomination for president, says that if he wins the presidency he will "absolutely" reverse steps President Obama has taken to normalize relations with Cuba. "In fact, I think they're in violation of the law," he said during his campaign swing through Iowa.

Aug 12  In China it is announced that Xi Xiaoming, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court, has been swept up by the country's anti-graft dragnet.

Aug 14  After months of debate, Iran and a coalition of countries including the United States agree that the UN Security Council's sanctions against Iran will be lifted in exchange for a 98 percent reduction of Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium during the coming fifteen years. President Obama's National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, says that when implemented the agreement will cut off all of Iran's potential pathways to a nuclear weapon in a fully verifiable fashion. She says the deal is not about terrorism or Iran's destabilizing activities in the region, "all of which we remain deeply concerned about."

Aug 16  In Tennessee,A 24-year-old naturalized US citizen with an engineering degree, Youef Absulazeea, who has been described as a normal nice guy, opens fire on two military installations, killing five service members, wounding another and killing a police office before he is shot to death. His act has been described as revenge for the mistreatment of friends.

Aug 16  Japan's lower house of parliament approves legislation that allows a Japan's military to participate in foreign conflicts in a limited capacity. The vote was accompanied by angry demonstrations outside parliament. China's foreign ministry spokesperson says, "We solemnly urge the Japanese side to draw hard lessons from history, stick to the path of peaceful development, respect the major security concerns of its Asian neighbors, and refrain from jeopardizing China's sovereignty and security interests or crippling regional peace and stability."

Aug 19  Today in South Carolina, Klansmen carrying Confederate battle flags gather in Columbia to protest the removal of the flag from the statehouse on the 7th. They shout racial slurs at a Black Unity Rally behind a police barrier.

Aug 20  Ann Coulter describes as just a flip remark Trump saying he doesn't like military men who become war heroes by being taken captive (like John McCain). She describes as "midgets" his rival candidates who are criticizing him for the remark. Coulter describes Trump's main issue as immigration.

Aug 21 John Kasich, Republican governor of Ohio, announces his run for president. He asks for prayers and support and says, "The sun is rising, and the sun is going to rise to the zenith in America again, I promise you."

Aug 21  In Burundi a presidential election is held. President Pierre Nkurunziza is running for a third term despite not being eligible to run again. The opposition is boycotting the election. Nkurunziza wins re-election.

Aug 23  A gunman opens fire at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, killing two people and injuring nine others before committing suicide.

Aug 24  Turkey moves against so-called Islamic State militants inside Turkey, and its jets strike against IS positions, this following explosions that killed 32 in Suruc, inside Turkey. Turkish jets also struck against Kurds in northern Iraq, for the first time since 2013. The Kurdish PKK is described as having mass support across Kurdish regions in Turkey and Syria. In Turkey the People's Democracy Party, seen as close to the PKK, won 13% of the vote in Turkey general election in June. Turkey's government and the PKK have been holding to a cease-fire since 2013, and the PKK now accuses the government of abandoning the peace process. Today it is reported that Turkish police have arrested 297 in raids against alleged supporters of several militant groups, including IS.

Aug 25  A court in northeast China sentenced five people to prison for spreading the teachings of Quannengshen, a banned religious group that's been linked to a killing of a woman in a McDonald's restaurant last year.

Aug 30  Zimbabwe is requesting the extradition of the Minnesota dentist. James Palmer, who shot and killed Cecil the Lion. Zimbabwe wants to charge him with poaching. Palmer complains that he relied on his local guides to ensure that he was doing everything legally.

September 2015

Sep 2 In the US, people who like Trump are saying there is a need to vote for people who are not politicians. People are pointing to a "do-nothing Congress" as reason to elected an outsider. A Washington Post columnist, Michael Gerson, two days ago wrote of Trump as saying the US has been betrayed by elites, that the country needs more than policy papers, it needs a savior. Gerson says Trump "will certainly fail."

Sep 4 In Kentucky, country clerk Kim Davis, has defied a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She has been put in jail. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky are speaking up her. Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas and a candidate for president, tweets about "the criminalization of humanity." A couple of other Republican presidential aspirants, Lindsey Graham and Carly Fiorina, are urging Davis to follow the law or resign.

Sep 10 According to CNN poll Trump leads the other Republican Party presidential aspirants with support from 32 percent of those polled. Speaking behind a rostrum adorned with the words "Tea Party Patriots", Trump described President Obama as"stupid," that we are being led by "very stupid people." Pundit-journalist Fareed Zakaria describes Trump as having "outlandish ideas." George Will writes that Trumps promises are "probably as malleable as his principles," that "some of this rivals for the nomination, disoriented by their fear and envy of him, are making the GOP seem like the party of boneless wonders."

Sep 10 Scientists announce the discovery in South Africa of a previously unknown species of early human: Homo naledi, South Africa. Fossils of at least fifteen of these individuals have been excavated from the cave. The fossils were first discovered by recreational cavers Rick Hunter and Steven Tucker in 2013. Adult males are estimated to have stood around 150 centimeters (5 feet) tall and weighed around 45 kilograms (100 lbs). The thumbs, wrist and palm bones are modern-like while their fingers are curved and useful for climbing. Geologists estimate that the cave in which the fossils were discovered is no older than three million years.

Sep 11 Former Governor of Texas Rick Perry drops out of the race for the Republican nomination for president.

Sep 13 ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz asks candidate Dr Ben Carson if he is bothered by Trump describing him as a nice man but without "the energy" needed to be president. Trump is claiming that "We need people that are really smart, that have tremendous deal-making skills and have great, great energy."

Sep 15 BBC News reports that Russia's President Putin "has pledged continued military support for Syria's Bashar al-Assad." In the US, members of the Republican Party are complaining.

Sep 17 Most republican candidates for president are complaining about President Obama mishandling the crisis in Syria. They say the US should have led other powers in applying force against Assad and that our allies (France, Britain and others) would have followed.

Sep 18 Automaker Volkswagen is alleged to have been involved in the rigging of diesel emissions tests, affecting an estimated 11 million vehicles.

Sep 21 Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker drops out of the Republican Party's presidential race.

Sep 22 Iran's President Rouhani has responded to a Sixty Minutes interview question about calls for "Death to America." He says that "enmity" between Iranians and Americans will not go away soon. He says what is important is which direction we are heading and that "we have taken the first step toward decreasing this enmity."

Sep 24 The Times of Israel has described speeches by Iranians at a military parade on September 22 (the 35th anniversary of the start of the eight-year Iraq-Iran war). It describes Iranian army chief Hassan Firouzabadi scoffing at Republicans in the US talking about a military option against Iran. President Rouhani's speech at the same parade was carried live on state television. He described his country's military as the most reliable force to take on "terrorists in the region" - a reference according to the Times of Israel to the Islamic State (IS). He said that Iranian troops "have helped both Iraq and Syria" in the struggle against IS, and he said that Iran has no military intentions toward other nations."

Sep 25 Stampeding Haj pilgrims at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia has left 717 people dead and more that 860 injured.

Sep 27 Pope Francis speaks to the US Congress. He speaks against conceit and of the need to find a good balance between attitudinal extremes. He says:

You are the face of [the] people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics.

Sep 30 Russia beings air strikes in Syria. The Russian defense ministry says its air force has targeted IS military equipment, communication facilities, arms depots, ammunition and fuel supplies. BBC News reports that "Syrian opposition activists" describe Russian warplanes as having "hit towns including Zafaraneh, Rastan and Talbiseh, resulting in the deaths of 36 people, a number of them children."


October 2015


Oct 1. A gunman kills 8 students and a teacher at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon Cargo ship El Faro goes missing with 33 crew during Hurricane Joaquin near the Bahamas Mudslide on the outskirts of Guatemala City leaves at least 131 dead and 300 missing.

Oct 2  Actor Randy Quaid and his wife Evi are arrested in Vermont after leaving Canada

Oct 3  US airstrike hits Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing around 19

Oct 3  Flash floods on the French Riviera kill at least 19 people

Oct 3  Host England loses to Australia 33-13 and crashes out of the Rugby World Cup at the pool stage

Oct 5  Nobel prize for Medicine awarded to William C. Campbell, Satoshi Ōmura (Roundworm) and Youyou Tu (Malaria)

Oct 5  Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement announced by trade ministers of 12 countries in Atlanta

Oct 5   Floods in South Carolina a "1,000-year storm" result in 12 deaths and 9 dams to fail

Oct 5  Governor Jerry Brown  of California signs a bill giving terminally ill patients the "right to die"

Oct 6  Nobel prize for Physics awarded to Takaaki Kajita (Japan) and Arthur McDonald (Canada) for work on neutrinos

Oct 7 US President Barack Obama  apologises to Doctors without Borders President and the President of Afghanistan for the bombing of a hospital in Kunduz

Oct 7  Nobel prize in Chemistry awarded to Tomas Lindahl (Sweden), Paul Modrich (US) and Aziz Sancar (Turkey) for work on cells DNA repair

Oct 8  Nobel prize for Literature awarded to Belarusian journalist and author Svetlana Alexievich

Oct 9  The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

Oct 10  Bombing at a peace rally in Ankara, Turkey kills at least 95, injures 200

Oct 11  Nepal's parliament elects Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, leader of the Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist party, as Prime Minister

Oct 13  Basketball player Lamar Odom is hospitalised after being found unconscious in a brothel in Nevada

Oct 13  Marlon James becomes first Jamaican to win the Man Booker Prize for his novel "A Brief History of Seven Killings"

Oct 13  First Democratic presidential candidates debate, broadcast by CNN and held in Las Vegas, Nevada

Oct 19  US scientists from University of California find evidence life on earth may have begun 4.1 billion years ago, 300 million earlier than previously thought

Oct 20  Migrants arriving in Greece top 500,00 for the year, according to the UN

Oct 24  Even results in Argentine Presidential Election between Daniel Scioli and Mauricio Macrieven trigger 1st ever Presidential run off 22 Nov

Oct 26  "Spectre", 24th James Bond film, directed by Sam Mendes and starring Daniel Craig premieres in London

Oct 26  World Health Organization classifies processed meat as carcinogenic

Oct 26  7.5 magnitude earthquake hits northern Pakistan and Afghanistan killing over 300

Oct 28  Longest ever 1st game of Baseball World Series (5h 9min), Kansas City Royals defeat New York Mets 5-4, also joint longest by innings

Oct 28  World Heath Organization ranks Tuberculosis alongside HIV as world's deadliest infectious diseases, killing 1.2 million (2014)

Oct 28  Research indicating Plague dates back to the Bronze age in skeletons 5,783 years old, published by University of Copenhagen team in "Cell"

Oct 28  Third Republican presidential candidates debate run by CNBC in Boulder, Colorado

Oct 29  China announces the end of their one-child policy after 35 years

Oct 29  Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) is elected Speaker of the US House of Representatives, succeeding John Boehner (R-Ohio)

Oct 31  Ruby World Cup Final: New Zealand's All Blacks defeat Australia's Wallabies 34-17 at Twickenham in London

Oct 31  Russian airliner crashes killing all 224 on board in Sinai Peninsula, Egypt - Russia's worst air disaster

Oct 31  Breeders Cup Classic: American Pharoah ridden by Victor Espinoza wins at Keeneland
November 2015

Nov 1  Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet's Davutoglus Justice and Development Party regains its parliamentary majority in a surprise result

Nov 2  Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull scraps Knights and Dames from Australia's honours system

Nov 3  Melbourne Cup won by Prince of Penzance ridden by Michelle Payne - 1st woman to win

Nov 3  Game Maker Activision Blizzard (Call of Duty) buys King.com (Candy Crush) for $5.9 billion

Nov 4  Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta announces his resignation after protests over a Bucharest nightclub fire that killed 32

Nov 4  Plane crashes after take-off from Juba international airport, South Sudan, killing 37, 1 year old survives in father's arms

Nov 5  Collins Dictionary name "binge-watch" the word of the year, followed by "transgender"

Nov 5  Japan's 1st officially recognized same-sex couple union - Koyuki Higashi and Hiroko Matsuhara in Tokyo

Nov 5  Fundão dam in Brazil collapses, killing about 23, causing a second dam to fail, releasing a massive flood of mud down the Rio Dulce

Nov 7  Sierra Leone is declared free of Ebola by the World Health Organization (death toll 4,000)

Nov 9  Tim Wolfe, President of the University of Missouri, resigns amid protests of endemic racism on campus

Nov 9  World Anti-Doping Agency commission report recommends Russian Federation be banned from athletics competitions for running a "state-supported" doping programme

Nov 9  San Diego's SeaWorld announces it will overhaul its killer whale show after controversy over the whales treatment

Nov 9  "Reclining Nude" by Italian artist Modigliani fetches 2nd highest auction price at $170.4m

Nov 10  Portugal's minority government is toppled by left-wing opposition 2 weeks after coming to power

Nov 10  Fourth Republican presidential candidates debate, sponsored by "The Wall Street Journal", held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Nov 11  Montreal begins a controversial dumping of raw sewage (2.1bn gallons) into the St Lawrence River

Nov 11  Flawless 12 carat Blue Moon Diamond sells for $48.4 million at auction in Geneva

Nov 12  Suicide bombings in Lebanon kill 43, Isis claim responsibility

Nov 13  Terror attacks in Paris at 3 locations leave at least 129 dead. Isis claim responsibility.

Nov 14  Second Democratic presidential candidates debate, broadcast by CBS, held in Des Moines, Iowa

Nov 15  Holly Holm defeats UFC Champion Ronda Rousey in an upset in Melbourne, Australia

Nov 15  France launches air strikes on Isis stronghold Raqqa in Syria in wake of terror attack on Paris

Nov 16  Largest diamond discovered in more than a century, a 1,111 carat stone found in the Karowe mine, Botswana

Nov 17  Ireland's 1st same-sex wedding takes place - Cormac Gollogly and Richard Dowling marry in Clonmel, County Tipperary

Nov 17  Suicide bomber kills more than 30 in a market in Yola, north-eastern Nigeria, with Boko Haram blamed

Nov 18  French police raid terrorist cell in Saint Denis, killing 2 including the leader of the Paris terror attacks Abdelhamid Abaaoud

Nov 18  2 female suicide bombers aged 18 and 11 blow themselves up in Kano, Nigeria, killing 15 and injuring over 100

Nov 20  More than half of all trees in Amazon forest at risk of extinction according to data published in journal "Sciences Advances"

Nov 22  In Argentine elections Mauricio Macri (PRO) wins a narrow election victory over his left-wing opponent

Nov 23  President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia bans female genital mutilation

Nov 24  Tunisia declares state of emergency after an attack on a bus in Tunis carrying presidential guards kills at least 12

Nov 24  Turkey shots down a Russian fighter jet after claiming it had flown into Turkish airspace

Nov 24  Venezuelan opposition leader Luis Díaz is shot and killed days before the country's general election

Nov 24  Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke is charged with first-degree murder of 17 year old African American Laquan McDonald in 2014

Nov 25  Pope Francis begins his trip to Africa, visiting Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic

Nov 26  UK nonprofit Raspberry Pi releases its $5 Zero computer, sells out in a day

Nov 27  Robert Lewis Dear (57) shots 3 dead and wounds 9 at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado

Nov 27  "Holy grail" of shipwrecks the San Jose, sunk 1708, is confirmed found by an international team off the coast of Colombia

Nov 29  104th Davis Cup: Great Britain beats Belgium in Ghent 6-3, 7-5, 6-3, 1st win since 1936

Nov 29  Britain Tyson Fury defeats Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko to win world heavyweight champion title (WBA, IBF, WBO) in Dusseldorf

Nov 30  21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or COP21 begins in Paris

Nov 30  Pope Francis urges peace while visiting controversial mosque in Bangui's PK5 district in Central African Republic

December 2015

Dec 2  Attack on a social services centre in San Bernardino, California kills 14 and wounds 17

Dec 3  US Defense Secretary Ash Carter announces all combat roles in US armed forced will be opened to women

Dec 4  Floods in Chennai and Tamil Nadu state, India start receding after a month of heavy rainfall, leaving more 260 dead and thousands stranded

Dec 7  Beijing issues its 1st ever red alert for pollution

Dec 7  US Presidential candidate Donald Trump  proposes banning all Muslims from entering the US

Dec 9  Attack on Kandahar airport by Taliban forces kills at least 37 before Afghan forces retake control

Dec 9  Amazon's best-selling book of the year is "Girl on a Train" by Paula Hawkins

Dec 10  Scientists at Cornell University announce world's first IVF puppies successfully born from a surrogate dog

Dec 11  Unrest in Burundi leads to clashes between authorities and protesters in Bujumbura, killing at least 87

Dec 11  "Playboy" magazine publishes its last nude issue, featuring Pamela Anderson on the cover

Dec 12  COP21 climate change summit in Paris reaches a deal between 195 countries to limit the rise in the global average temperature to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels

Dec 12  First women ever elected in Saudi Arabia in municipal council elections

Dec 13  Irishman Conor McGregor knocks out Brazilian Jose Aldo in 13 seconds to win his 1st featherweight title in Las Vegas

Dec 13  81st Heisman Trophy Award: Derrick Henry, Alabama (RB)

Dec 14  Bus plunges off bridge into Balboa River near Argentina city of Rosario de la Frontera, killing 43 frontier police on board

Dec 15  1,000 schools closed in Los Angeles after a email threat, supposedly from jihadists

Dec 15  Mayor of Flint, Michigan declares state of emergency over contaminated water supplies amid calls for a criminal investigation

Dec 15  Fifth Republican presidential candidates debate in Las Vegas, Nevada

Dec 16  US Federal Reserve raises interest rates by 0.25% for the first time since 2006

Dec 17  José Mourinho is sacked as manager of British Premier football club Chelsea

Dec 17  Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals is arrested on fraud charges in New York by the FBI

Dec 17  Libyan warring political factions sign a UN-brokered deal to form a unified government

Dec 19  Third Democratic presidential candidates debate, broadcast by ABC, held in Goffstown, New Hampshire

Dec 20  Landslide from construction waste in Shenzhen, China leaves 74 dead or missing and buries 30 buildings

Dec 26  Floods in Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay displace 150,000, blamed on El Nino

Dec 27  Iraqi forces retake IS held city of Ramadi (ISIS first captured in May)

Dec 28  Japan and South Korea reach agreement over WWII "comfort women", Japan apologies and pays 1bn yen compensation

Dec 29  Ebola epidemic in Guinea declared over by WHO, 2,500 died over 2 years

Dec 31  US law enforcement kills 1,134 in 2015, young black men 9x more likely to be victims





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